Friday, December 11, 2009

A Call From Nature Put On Hold

A wonderful story from British poet Stephen Spender (1909-1995) in John Goldsmith, ed., Stephen Spender: Journals 1939-1983 (NY: Random House, 1968), pp. 310-311—

As soon as I got up to give my lecture [in October 1975 at New Mexico State University at Los Cruces] I was seized with violent diarrhea pains—a nightmare situation come true! It seemed to me that I kept on saying confused sentences, though luckily some of the lecture hung together. No one seemed to have noticed. I even pulled myself together sufficiently to do well in answering questions after the talk. Then of course everything delayed my getting to a lavatory. People asking for autographs, the ones too shy to get up in front of the audience asking their little private questions. There was some difficulty in finding a lavatory. Then when the chairman did take me to one, NOT IN USE was written across MEN on the door. We found another and as soon as I got into it an elderly gentleman emerged from one of its stalls and said, "Didn't I meet you twenty years ago? Now where was it? What did you speak about, etc." I said, "Excuse me, I'll speak to you afterwards, outside" and dashed into the place he had left.