The women’s bathroom was out of order. “It hasn’t worked in months. Nobody ever fixed it, so we sort of made the men’s bathroom into the one for everybody”, the guy at the register told us. Now, women don’t generally take to using the men’s room, seeing they have to touch the seat and all. And adding to the wrong gender quality of the experience, the key to the working men’s room was attached to a beat-up old hubcap. The key had walked off in too many customers’ pockets in the past. (My father used to bolt the extra house key that was hidden on the porch to a rusty piece of angle iron so none of us boys could put it in our pockets.)
All this made Valerie uncomfortable walking to the back of the store to use the facilities. The dangling hubcap served as a public alert system, broadcasting the goal of her walk to all those at the back of the store. Normally, when we use the bathroom, we can make it seem that we are looking for art; it is always in the back of thrift stores.
On our first walk through this Toledo thrift, we saw nothing that attracted our rescuing eyes. But, you know how the need to relieve ourselves somehow changes what we see in the world? Well, this need helped us spot two large pictures leaning backside out, under the water fountain between the working and the non-working toilets. We turned the front sides out to discover two beautiful original water colors (under the water fountain by the water closet)by Irene Ferriman, a regionally known artist from the Ohio valley. They were framed very nicely in bronze metal and perfectly matted, each depicting a wonderfully soft view of an old-timey wooden covered bridge. The paintings made us feel like we were actually standing at the threshold of the bridge in the Ohio countryside. Ferriman was definitely at the bridge with her easel when she painted these.
Now, Irene Ferriman is fascinated by natural beauty and her art has been used for get-well cards for cancer patients. It is such a shame that these works were abandoned herenext to a toilet that was broken. Perhaps their former owner had lost a battle with disease and lost the belief that art can heal. We were lucky to have rescued this art from the dampness of the water cooler and toilet. We were also lucky because, if we hadn’t needed to pee that day, we would not have seen this art that might one day be an aid to healing a new owner who still believes.