Clothing store, clothing store, shoe boutique. Nope.
Library? Maybe...no. Not open yet.
Cafe? Definitely...but I'm not hungry.
I've become an expert at this point--an expert at picking out which place will have a public bathroom and/or drinking fountain. It's best when you come across a supermarket or pharmacy; big enough that the staff won't give you dirty looks for simply walking in to use the facilities, and almost always contains a drinking fountain. If anyone questions you, you just say, "I'm looking for (insert random fictitious brand name of protein bars: i.e., Olympic Protein. What?)." Trust me, it works every time.
My eyes settle on a bookstore. I've sworn the places off for my trip; it's nearly impossible for me to step into one without being overcome with the insatiable itch to buy 25 different novels. However, this one is so cute...my feet do the thinking for me. Before I know it, I'm inside.
My eyes glaze over and run the length of the store, which (like most places in New York) seems about three times bigger once you're inside than it did from the outside. I feel the same way I feel every time I walk into a new bookstore: like a newborn baby discovering the world for the first time. I wander around like an idiot, shuffling my feet and most likely annoying everyone within a ten foot radius. I run my hands over the hardbacks and paperbacks, practically drooling on the freshly printed pages. New books always smell so good. I take a few whiffs when I'm positive no one is looking.
The whir of a cappuccino machine snaps me out of my daze; a cafe inside the bookstore! Like a bloodhound, I know what this means--there must be a bathroom somewhere in here. My full bladder does cartwheels of excitement and I gallop down a staircase, my gut telling me the bathroom is downstairs.
Bathroom Bloodhound strikes again! I think triumphantly once I locate it, in the corner of the bottom floor next to the Language section. I approach the door, my expression waning once I realize it's locked. Bastards.
I whirl around with my omniscient nostrils, sniffing out the help desk employee at his post on the other end of the floor.
"Hi," I greet him, trying to banish the panicked craze I'm sure is in my eyes. "Do you happen to have the bathroom key?" I murmur softly. In situations where you know you're asking for something you don't necessarily deserve ("For paying customers only"), I find it's always best to take advantage of the fact that I look twelve years old and act like a perfect, angelic lamb. I bat my eyes at him and wrap my thin arms around my even thinner body like, Please, suh. May I have the bathroom key?
"It takes quarters," he purrs back to me, doing everything short of patting me on the head and giving me a lollipop. "Here you go," he says, handing me a shiny coin.
"Thanks," I beam, whirling around to take full advantage of the water fountain.
Once I've voided my bladder and hydrated again (it's a vicious cycle here in the City), I continue perusing the books, unconsciously tucking five under my arm and taking a seat in the cafe to read through them. Maybe I can just buy one, I think. You know what, screw it. I deserve one book, don't I? I naughtily reason with myself.
I glance around the cafe, very aware of the fact that everyone else has purchased a coffee and/or food item to justify their being there. I start to imagine people glancing up at me, resenting me for being such a cheap-ass.
I'm a college student, damn it! I want to scream. New York isn't cheap, you know! In reality, no one gives a shit what I'm doing.
I keep glancing at the barista regardless. I'm going to buy this book, my eyes plead with her. She's yet to notice that I'm even here.
I take another hour reading through all the books. I fan them out in front of me, on the verge of tears. I feel like I've given birth to quintuplets and am now being forced to choose one to take home with me. I pick one I think will be the best and run away from the rest before I change my mind, headed straight for the cash register. Once I've been rung up I return to the basement floor to use the restroom again, praying it'll be a different guy at the help desk. To my relief, it is.
"Hi," I say in my child's voice. "Can I have a coin for the bathroom?"
"Sure," he grins. I can tell he wants to slap a Hello Kitty bandaid on me and ruffle up my hair.
New York is the best city in the world.