Lightening Strikes, Maybe Once, Maybe Twice…

The Day I Got Locked Into A Bathroom With 50 Lesbians

My days always start off as innocuously as possible. Sometimes, when something happens, I’ll sit back for a moment and wonder how exactly my day reached that point and this particular day was no exception. Three years ago, Nicki and I went to a pride event in Milwaukee. The entire month of pride is obviously celebratory, filled with lots of parties, fundraisers, parades and fairs. Because Chicago always holds their GLBT pride weekend on the last weekend in June, smaller surrounding metropolitan areas such as Milwaukee, Madison, Indianapolis and I think even Detroit (but who really willingly goes to Detroit?) all have their GLBT pride weekends on the June weekends that lead up to Chicago’s.

That said, Nicki and I have always enjoyed Milwaukee PrideFest. It’s a heck of a lot more “chill” than Chicago Pride – Less people, less crowds, less obnoxious pushy drunks and far more casual than the “party hard all night long and get wild” theme that seems to resonate through Boystown, Lakeview and Andersonville during Chicago Pride. So, we always make a point to drive the 1 1/2 hours to Milwaukee during the second weekend in June to kick off our pride month. We did it before, and we happened to do it that particular year – Only this particular year, neither of us bothered to check the weather forecast for the day.

The morning and early afternoon hours were deceivingly beautiful. Spring was turning into summer, the sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud to be seen and the temperature was that perfect 70, 75 degrees. During the entire drive into Milwaukee, the weather couldn’t have been more clear and perfect. We walked through the gates of Maier Park (for those that haven’t been to Milwaukee, this festival park is also where they hold SummerFest – It is RIGHT ON the lake and completely open-air with only a few different pavilions scattered throughout the grounds) and began our fun-filled afternoon. We got drinks, perused the various tents and booths with hundreds of different vendors (shirts, books, jewelry, Planned Parenthood, arts and crafts, you name it and they have a booth at PrideFest) and rode the sky ride from one end of the park to the other.

In fact, it wasn’t until we hopped on the sky ride and got locked into a tiny cart attached to a thick cable hanging 80 feet above the park that I began to notice something was amiss. No, it wasn’t the fact that the sky ride is inaccurately named the “Sky Glider” (“Glider” would make one think that this is a relaxing little ride to get you from one end of the park to the other – There is no “gliding”; closer to the truth would be a terrifying bump-along at the mercy of the wind coming off of the lake until you reach the other end and can finally let yourself breathe again). It did, however, alert me to the fact that the weather could possibly be turning on us.

Just breathe, girl I kept telling myself as we bumped along the cable and swung back and forth over ant-sized people on the ground. You were never scared of heights when you were a kid. Just relax. Look at the horizon and focus on that. For the love of the UNIVERSE, stop looking down!

Nicki seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the sky ride and chattered on as I interjected with an “Uh-huh” here and a “Yup” there so she couldn’t sense that I was two minutes from a acrophobia-induced panic attack. I decided to follow my instincts and look at the horizon over Lake Michigan in an effort to focus on something and calm myself. Unfortunately it wasn’t the first time that my instincts led me astray, causing me to have a Terrible Idea. The horizon was black. Like, swirling-clouds-from-the-Wizard-of-Oz, creeping-in-slowly-with-bursts-of-faraway-lightening black. If I wasn’t convinced that I was going to die before, now I was ready to bet my life savings on it. I stared south – Black sky for as far as the eye could see. I tried to turn and look north, but I was too terrified that one false move in the cart would cause it to wobble and tip me to a messy doom 80 feet below so I stayed stock still and stared at the horrendous storm a few miles down the lake.

Before I could forewarn Nicki, though, and be the one to break the news of our impending deaths to her, something miraculous happened – The ride stopped. We had reached the other end of the park and I don’t think I’ve ever bolted out of a ride so quickly in my life. Once we were back on solid ground, it was easy to forget about the Clouds of Doom that were headed our way – From the ground, you could only see so far out to Lake Michigan and they hadn’t closed in close enough yet to know that they were out there. However, the wind was beginning to pick up and the temperatures plummeted. As we stood in line for another drink, I was met with Captain Obvious.

“You know, I think it might rain,” Nicki said with an adorable wrinkle of her nose.

“Yes,” I agreed. “Why don’t we go into one of the pavilions and let it pass? They’re doing that drag show we wanted to see anyway.”

And it was as easy as that to have yet another Terrible Idea. See, in the Midwest during roughly April – September, it’s storm season. Thunderstorm surges will come and go quickly, usually pouring for about a half-hour and then the skies are bright and clear once again. There have been times where I’ve driven on the highway and the entire sky behind me is as black as nighttime while the area I’m driving into is clear and sunny. It’s eerie, but it’s the Midwest for you. So, anyway, off we went. We found a small table in the pavilion right on the shoreline as crowds filtered in for the drag king show.

I think they got about three songs done before the loudest clap of thunder I’ve ever heard in my life shook the entire structure and cut off their music. The drag king on the stage was a trooper, though, and continued the bit. Once the song was over, a couple of yellow-jacketed park security staff stepped around the stage and began speaking to the performance troupe. They looked very disappointed, and the crowd of lesbians began to get antsy.

“Sorry everyone,” the troupe leader spoke into the microphone apologetically. “The weather is getting really bad, so they’re evacuating everyone from the lakefront.”

A chorus of jeers went up from the crowd but was quickly silenced by yet another thunderous clap of warning from Mother Nature. No sooner did Nicki and I stand and gather our things to make a dash for the car did the skies open up and unleash their fury. Rain poured down in such a way that it looked like thousands of shower heads had suddenly been turned on – Maybe by those bastards on the sky ride! It was pitch black and the thunder was so loud that you could feel it reverberate through the concrete. Nicki and I stood looking at each other for a full minute, wondering what to do. Staying in the pavilion seemed like the obvious choice since it was a five-minute walk to the car, but I caught a flash of neon yellow in my peripheral just as I felt a tug on my arm.

“Ladies, you can’t stay here,” the security guy told us firmly. “We’re evacuating everyone.”

“Okay,” I replied grudgingly. “It’s just that our car is down the street and it’s a five-minute walk. We’re going to get soaked.”

He looked at me for a long moment and I think he may have been drawing up some patience. “No, no, you misunderstood,” he said. “We can’t let anyone leave, it’s too dangerous.” It was then that he dropped the atomic bomb on us. “Funnel clouds have been spotted over the lake, less than a mile away. We’re evacuating everybody to safe places for the time being.”

I should take this moment to let readers know that my girlfriend has an irrational fear of tornados. As soon as the words “funnel clouds” were dropped, it was like a light switch had been flipped. Gone was the slightly-irritated, rainbow-boa-adorned girlfriend that was more annoyed that she couldn’t finish her beer than anything else. In her place was a hyperventilating, wide-eyed girlfriend whose voice was edged in hysteria as she paced around the pavilion anxiously.

“Funnel clouds? Oh my god,” she muttered to herself as she rubbed her face. “No, not funnel clouds. Oh my god. This isn’t good. Tornado. Oh my god.”

We obediently followed the security guard the safe place that was supposed to protect us from the impending tornado. I looked around in confusion as he led us to the women’s bathroom. The small brick structure couldn’t have been larger than the average person’s living room and was only a few steps further from the shoreline than the pavilion had been. That was what was supposed to keep us secure? I, and it goes without saying Nicki too, had been hoping for some sort of bomb shelter, a hidden emergency-use-only underground bunker deep beneath the streets of Milwaukee. Instead, we were faced with a tiny three-stall bathroom that shook and shuddered as the wind howled by at 65 M.P.H.

The guard escorted us in and we were immediately faced with roughly 50 lesbians that had also been evacuated to the safest place at the park. In case you didn’t know, 50 lesbians is way too many in a bathroom to ever be a good idea. We quietly stood against a far wall next to an older couple who were inexplicably taking photos of the bathroom ceiling.

“Insurance purposes,” Nicki leaned over and whispered to me knowingly. “This bathroom could go down in a second if this tornado is bad.”

At this point I became concerned about her mental health (but she still loves me 🙂 ). As I tried to make up some funny story about why they were taking photos of the bathroom ceiling to ease my girlfriend’s troubled mind, a “gangsta-wannabe” lesbian ambled over to us with a grin that I immediately did not trust.

“Is that your girlfriend?” she asked me.

I nodded.

“She’s hot,” she stated, and then turned to Nicki. “Damn, mama, you’re looking good, baby. You’re cute.”

Oh shit, there’s going to be a fight. “Yes,” I spat. “I think so too.” That’s why I’m the one that wakes up next to her every morning I finished in my head angrily.

Luckily, butch J.Lo 2.0 turned and retreated back to her friend and they began defacing one of the stall doors with a Sharpie instead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the extremely jealous type. I know my girlfriend is hot and I don’t care if people look or tell me how beautiful she is. I’m secure in my relationship and it really doesn’t bother me – My typical response is “I know, right?!” It was the fact that butch J.Lo 2.0 was being disrespectful on purpose that got under my skin. To this day, I think I could’ve taken her if I had to…Even if Nicki just pats my arm and says “Yup”.

As the rain and thunder continued to beat down on the roof of the bathroom, I began to pass the time with people-watching. A young couple, when I say young I mean babies, were in the midst of a break-up near the sinks. They couldn’t have been more than 15 or 16 and I couldn’t help but feel bad for them. Breaking up sucks as it is, but to have to do it while locked in a crowded bathroom during a tornado probably takes the cake for horrible timing. The taller one looked ready to burst into tears at any moment while the shorter one smiled suggestively at every woman that walked by. I decided that some girls must just be born heartless. As women around us began to speculate how long, exactly, we may be trapped in the bathroom, a woman with a baseball cap held up a navy blue backpack.

“It’s okay,” she assured everyone. “I’ve been in these situations before. I’m a survivalist, I know how to get through these things. We’ll be fine.”

“Oh, thank god!” Nicki sighed with relief. “She must have a backpack full of supplies.”

While I was grateful to the woman for being the most prepared lesbian on the planet, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it – Who brings a backpack full of survival gear to an afternoon at a PrideFest?! In a large urban area, no less?! As I wondered how she even got through the front gates where security checks through everyone’s bags, she began an inventory of her supplies. Compass, check. Trail mix and pita chips, check. Water bottle, you got it. Pocket knife, how the hell did that get past the security guards?!

“She has a knife,” I whispered to Nicki. “That is what we need to be concerned about, not the tornado.”

Nicki glared at me as if I was the crazy one. “Don’t say that! She’s prepared.”

“For what?” I whispered back. “She’s not Bear Grylls! She’s a woman walking around the city of Milwaukee with a knife and some pita chips! If every restaurant and 7-11 simultaneously goes out of business around here within the next hour, then maybe I’ll give her props for being onto something. She could be a loose cannon or something!”

Nicki looked at me for a long moment before silently shaking her head. As I eyed the woman with the knife, I overheard another older couple asking the security guard when we might be allowed to leave. It had now been just over two hours since we had been locked in and, while the rain was still coming down steadily, the thunder and wind seemed to have tapered off. I’ll take this opportunity to mention that this happened during June of 2008, so it was a year after the first iPhone came out but really before its explosion and the popularity of apps and such. Some of the women had internet on their phones, but things like mobile weather trackers, 3G or 4G, etc were not yet highly publicized so we were at the mercy of the guard.

“Uhh,” he scratched his head as he appeared to have nodded off. “Well, I can’t release anyone until the head of security gives me the okay.” He gestured to the silent walkie-talkie attached to his belt clip. “Liability, you know.”

“It doesn’t sound very bad now,” the older woman coaxed. I think she had had just about enough of this bathroom adventure as I had. “What if we just want to go to our cars and leave?”

He dropped those two words again. “There are funnel clouds in the area,” I stole a glance at Nicki, who had closed her eyes in anguish. “So we can’t really let anyone go until they think its safe.”

“And the head of security will let you know that?” she clarified as he nodded.

I shook my head sadly. How do we know that the head of security hasn’t high-tailed it the hell out of here? How do we know a tornado didn’t touch down and smash over his bathroom bunker? What if he forgets about us, we could be stuck in here FOREVER! The thought was too terrifying to imagine.

The other older couple began fiddling with their digital camera with frowns. “Oh no, our memory chip must be full,” one of them muttered. The other turned around and watched us for a moment. I had made the mistake of glancing through our pictures on our own camera to pass the time. “I’ll take a photo of you two, if you want,” she offered to us. “I see you looking through your pictures there, would you like one of the two of you together?”

Nicki and I glanced at each other and nodded. “Sure, sounds great, thank you,” I said as we stood and I handed her my camera. Just don’t take any of the ceiling on mine.

No sooner did we smile and the bright flash blinded all of the women around us than the hopeful sound of static on a walkie-talkie could be heard. The security guard sprang to attention and listened with military-like attention for a moment. “Roger that, sir,” he repeated with joy into the speaker. He turned around slowly to the 50 waiting lesbians. “You’re free to go!”

Roughly two and a half hours, a few hundred photos, one break-up and a possible near-confrontation later, we were all released into the drizzling gray late afternoon. Nicki and I stood for a moment near the bathroom door as we made sure we had all of our things and restrained ourselves from jumping for joy. We began walking toward the front gates when, wouldn’t you know it, another clap of thunder rolled across the park and one last massive cloud began emptying itself onto us.

“Hey!” we heard someone yell from behind. I turned slightly. The yellow-jacketed security guard stood at the door to the bathroom and waved wildly. “False alarm! It’s not safe yet! Come back!”

Nicki and I eyed each other for a moment. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she asked quietly.

We both turned toward the front gate. We were closer to the gate than we were to the bathroom. She didn’t need to say anything more. With a shriek, we decided that it was worth the risk and bolted through the gates as the security guard hollered behind us about lawsuits, safety and liability issues. By the time we reached the car, we were soaked through to the bone, my hair was curlier than even the most rigorous of 80’s-style perms and Nicki may have lost a flip-flop but as soon as we sat down and breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief, we knew it was worth it.

“What do you want to do now?” Nicki asked. “It’s still early.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know, wait for a while in the car and see if this rain stops. Decide if we want to head home or go out somewhere?”

“Oh no,” Nicki replied quickly. “After that, we deserve to go to the bar and get a pizza and a drink.”

I decided that she was right. As I pulled our duffel bag from the backseat with two changes of clothes (we had each brought a nicer outfit for going out later), the rain stopped. Just like that.

Nicki already had the address for Mona’s, Milwaukee’s best lesbian bar, plugged into our G.P.S. “Five minutes that way.” she pointed.

And off we went; our adventures never really over.

PS – Here is the bathroom picture (top) and sky ride photo (bottom – notice how much of a rock star brave face I have – and how cloudy it already is) to prove it:


2 responses

  1. Nic

    Love these pics especially knowing how scared I was in that bathroom! lol

    December 10, 2011 at 6:53 PM

  2. Pingback: WordPress and Internet and SEO, Oh My! | ThisIsAshleyQuinn

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