So, following on from the previous story, we leave our five compatriots at the kerbside to guard our uninsured rental vehicle (as well as to sweet-talk any potential traffic-wardens, if they are so-named in Canada) and enter an unnervingly smart-looking, business-like, bustling skyscraper where we enquire of the Concierge where we might find the Alamo office we seek.
‘You need P3’ he peremptorily informs us. ‘Take the elevator’.
Which we do. But for arcane reasons, we emerge not at Level P3 – which is clearly somewhere deeply subterranean – but instead into a food-court – currently at this time of mid-morning thankfully relatively quiet – as we wander bemusedly around in search of the Alamo. Instead we stumble upon a small National Car Rentals cubicle in an adjoining corridor where the operative points us downwards and tells us again we need P3.
It is sometime now, dear reader, since your aged author left home and, as such, he finds himself in increasingly urgent need of his own version of P3. Thus we now divert our immediate quest to locate public conveniences (or, as they are so named in Canada, the Washrooms, where the ‘a’ is very definitely pronounced as an ’a’ – and certainly not an ‘o’, as it is in the King’s English.)
So, our further increasingly-desperate corridor-wanderings eventually deliver blessed relief in the form of a set of Washrooms, although, even as I find myself entering that state of slightly-premature mental relief, we realise that the Gents is unfortunately currently closed.
The Chief Navigating Officer immediately leaps to my aid with the inspired and pro-active suggestion that she’ll check the adjacent Ladies, and if there’s no-one in occupation, I could slip in there unnoticed. Which she does, seconds later, beckoning me to follow her in with a frightfully British ‘thumbs-up’ – and in I go.
Of the four cubicles, all the doors are understandably closed, but just as I step towards my chosen target, out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of one of these doors beginning to open from the inside. With bladder now protesting vehemently, I realise in an instant that the Ladies clearly isn’t fully unoccupied and dive into a cubicle, dragging the CNO with me, in an instantaneous and completely misguided decision to hide us both in our guilt.
And then the shouting began.
“THERE’S A MAN IN HERE! CALL SECURITY! A MAN! IN HERE! THERE’S A MAN IN THE LADIES! GET ME SECURITY! NOW!”
The brave CNO, realising her initial error, baled-out of our cramped cubicle in an attempt to placate the Shouter, while I took the only decision my bladder would allow, locked the door and – under still-shouted demands for Security, prison and death – enjoyed several fine seconds of blessed relief.
With the CNO now imploring the implacable woman to shut the f*** up, ferchrissake, I emerged, fully-zipped, to be confronted by a diminutive, wrinkle-faced Asian woman, who just kept shouting. Casting aside our hastily mumbled apologies in the face of the continuing tirade, we both headed for the exit, where the outer door was now being held open for us by a freshly-arrived female security guard.
In the comparative calm of the outer mall, we were greeted by not one, not two but four more uniformed security guards, all looking a little perplexed. A besuited manager was clearly also now in attendance, to whom we attempted to explain the circumstances, raising our voices a little to overcome the continued yelling from within the Ladies’ facility.
In a very short space of time – and clearly able to assess from my evident age that both my need and our story were genuine – Security gathered a collective and protective phalanx around us as the lone female security guard escorted our assailant – plus an astonishingly large stack of wheeled luggage – out of the Washroom.
“We’ve had some problems with this lady before – we think she’s been living in there for quite a while” confided one of the now-befriended Guards, nodding in her direction, as she stood defiantly alongside all her wheeled and worldly possessions, still mouthing-off at us both, but clearly also now evicted from her semi-permanent domicile in the Ladies loos.
“Can I show you to the elevator for P3?” we’re asked as we bid a cautious farewell to our verbal assailant, still vocally insistent that I should – at the very least – be imprisoned for my incursion.
We eventually reach Alamo, buried in a tiny office in the massive multi-storey car-park set amidst the foundations of Brookfield Place, 161 Bay St, Unite C80, Toronto. Here we find a queue of people waiting to collect hire-cars and an harassed office manager who greeted us with the advice to come back in “about 2-3 hours” when she’d be sure to “be able to help with our enqueery.” We gave up; surfaced to street level through the wrong exit; enjoyed a therapeutic five-minute walk in glorious sunshine around the building and were reunited with our diligent team of vehicle-watchers. Quite understandably, they were wholly disbelieving of our tale and exasperated to have wasted several collective hours of their lives, while I just went for a wee.