Bill Long 10/21/07
The Newest Tourist Attraction (The Larry Craig "Stall")
As I write this, I am in Minneapolis for two days to consult with some people who know a lot about delivering services to families of children with autism (I am writing a book on the financing of such services). Normally if you have a few extra minutes in Minneapolis you visit the outstanding art museums or the Nicollet Mall or the Guthrie Theater or the State Capitol (in nearby St. Paul), not to mention possibly attending a sporting event or walking through the sprawling University of Minnesota campus. But when I arrived in Minneapolis this morning, after an all-night flight from Portland through Chicago, I found myself eagerly desiring to find what I call the "Larry Craig Stall" in the men's restroom of the Lindbergh terminal at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport ("Airport"). This essay describes my adventure in that quest.
Recalling Senator Craig
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), as you probably recall, had the unfortunate experience of being arrested for disorderly conduct and peeping into another's bathroom stall after tapping his feet a few too many times and practicing his distinctive "wide stance" in a stall of the men's room at the Airport on June 11, 2007. Trying to keep the matter quiet, he pled guilty to the disorderly conduct charge (a misdemeanor), but his cover was blown in August when his arrest and guilty plea were reported in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. The nation was then treated to a combination of political ineptitude and hang-wringing as Republicans tried to get rid of Craig but he refused to be cooperative about it, even as he delivered contradictory pledges to resign or not to resign throughout the month of September. A Democratic political consultant versed in opposition research couldn't have orchestrated a more telling attack on the Republicans.
Arriving in Minnesota
So all these things were swirling in my mind as I arrived in Minnesota this morning. At first I doubted whether I would be able to find the restroom in question, since there are dozens in the airport, but by following up some clues given in various internet stories, I soon determined that the "Larry Craig Stall" was in the men's restroom in the main mall at the Lindbergh Terminal. The restroom stands between a high-end purse/necklace shop and a low-end shoe shine shop and across the mall from the typical fare of "mall shops" today (Caribou Coffee, Northwest Crossing, etc.). I decided that I would go into the restroom and shave (after all, I had been traveling all night), but I would be scrupulously careful not to tap my foot too eagerly to the music on my IPOD or take a "wide stance" as I looked at myself in the mirror. This decision gave me a legitimate reason for hanging out in the men's room for several minutes this morning.
First, however, I couldn't resist "scoping out" the restroom. It was, in my expert opinion, a restroom like many others, though it did have one distinctive feature. First, the "usual" stuff. The sinks were to the right of the entrance, the urinals slightly to the left, and then the stalls were to the far left of the entrance along the side wall. The unusual thing was a separate hallway connecting the stalls to the urinals at the point furthest from the main entrance. This interesting architectural feature, which gave guys a second means of "escaping" the stall area, may indeed have contributed to the inappropriate behavior in this restroom.
Men were coming and going as I trudged through the bathroom, making mental notes as I went. I looked for several seconds (No, I didn't peek!) at the row of stalls and realized that the nine stalls were divided into two sets (of four and five, respectively) separated by a cleaning closet. The five in the rear corner of the restroom were, no doubt, the stalls where the good senator finally found, as the old Gospel hymns say, his "resting place." One online source says he occupied the 2nd to the last stall. There is no plaque, however, no mention of the stall which led to his arrest. I really didn't expect any such notice, but I thought that someone would have carved Larry's initials in the metal. Maybe they did and I didn't notice. I didn't want to become too conspicuous.
When I walked through the restroom (and I did it twice just to make sure I saw all I could), I noticed that only about two or three of the stalls were occupied; one of them had a roll bag placed against the stall door. This was telltale sign for the Minneapolis policeman doing stall duty that a man might be trying to "hide" from outside view. In my humble opinion, it could also mean that the guy didn't want to leave his bag unattended outside the stall while he used it. That he placed it against the stall door is quite natural--those stalls aren't the size of Embassy Suites rooms, you know.
As I shaved I briefly "re-created" the June 11 scene in my mind. I will spare you the details here. Suffice it to say that soliciting sex in such a location, so close to the heart of a constant "buzz" of activity, would be a dumb thing for anyone to do. I don't know if Senator Craig's "stall tactics" really rose to the level of solicitation; he definitely exercised extremely poor judgment. But I didn't take much time to relive the event.
Bill, the Tour Guide?
I, the son and brother of entrepreneurs, started thinking rather of the ways I might become an unofficial "tour guide" for this rest room. Couldn't you see it now? I could stand outside with a little sign saying I would tell about the arrest and show people the "stall." I am sure that I would get a lot of police attention if I did such a thing. But at least they wouldn't then be hanging out in stalls to catch other wide-stanced men.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long