I was sitting at the gate at LAX waiting for a flight home to St. Louis when a woman in her mid-twenties sat down next to me. She was carrying an oversized handbag and immediately began scrounging through it. After a couple of minutes, she turned to me and asked, “Do you have any lotion?”

I replied, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t. And I have to be honest with you. I’ve never had any lotion.”

I’m a middle-aged bald fat guy, the kind of person whose Venn diagram circle does not overlap with the lotion-carriers of the world. She seemed surprised, as though it were unthinkable that a person could get through a day without applying some kind of lotion to their skin.

When I told my daughter this story, she replied, “But Dad, you should use some on your hands, or the skin will get all cracked.” I assured her that I had somehow made it through more than five decades of life without a cracked-skin problem, but she, too, was shocked at my lotion-free existence.

When I mentioned the incident on Twitter, I got two responses: “What do you expect in LA?” and “Don’t you realize she was hitting on you?” I replied that, based on evidence from my entire adulthood, including recent interactions with women half my age, there was no chance of the latter being true.

Not long after, my airport seatmate asked if I would watch her carry-on bag while she went to the bathroom. I agreed, she went, and when she returned, I asked her to return the favor since I’d be boarding my flight soon. She nodded her assent.

The watch-my-bags favor is an odd situation. In order to make sure that a complete stranger doesn’t steal your stuff while you’re away for a few minutes, you ask a complete stranger to watch it. I don’t know why we think that this particular unknown-to-us human is anymore trustworthy than the others in the terminal, but it must have to do with simple proximity. And you have to ask someone, because we’ve all heard those airport announcements about unattended bags being confiscated by the authorities. The last thing we want is to see pieces of our underwear tossed into the air when our suitcase is exploded by an FBI robot at the far end of the tarmac as a security precaution.

So, while Lotion Woman was watching my stuff, I went to the men’s room, where I encountered one of my pet peeves — the toilet that flushes prematurely. I was just sitting there taking care of my pre-flight business, when I moved a centimeter-and-a-half to the left to grab the toilet paper and — whoosh! — the auto-flush mechanism kicked in. I’ve encountered and written about this before (notably at the Rio in Las Vegas during the World Series Of Poker), and it’s always annoying. Not only was my mission incomplete, but now my butt was wet from the premature splashing in the bowl. I know the French love this idea (thus The Bidet, an idea even less popular in the US than escargot and the metric system combined), but for me, it’s a pain in the ass. I don’t want to get too gross here, but suffice it to say the situation required more paper, which caused more flushing, which…you get the idea.

One thing could have made this matter even more uncomfortable, and that’s if the men’s room had an attendant. Here’s what I wrote in 2001 about that profession (that’s the wrong word, as bathroom attendant is not a position people aspire to as a career, but rather something that barely qualifies as a job):

Talk about careers that attract no attention at a Job Fair. I can’t help feel sorry for guys who have that job, as if they’ve been punished for losing Hell’s Lottery.

Still, I speak for all men when I say that this whole bathroom attendant concept makes us ill at ease. We don’t want some guy hovering while we drop trou, like a plainclothes cop ready to bust George Michael.

Worse, the attendant always greets you with a “Hi!” or a “How ya doin?” This catches up by surprise because it violates the First Rule Of The Men’s Room: NO TALKING!

Guys want to get in, take care of business, and get out, without any hassles and without speaking a word. I have seen heated conversations between two men come to a complete stop at the door on the way in and then resume once they left, with nary a syllable exchanged in between.

I don’t know if there’s someone serving a similar function in the ladies’ room, so, as a public service, let me clue the women into what you’re missing.

In addition to his hovering responsibilities, the attendant has a display of carefully arranged toiletries for sale, from a bottle of after-shave to a hairbrush to a bowl of mints (mmm, yummy, men’s room mints!). I’d guess there’s more material sold via the aspirin-and-condom vending machine on the wall than through his countertop display, but he’s still set up to move some merchandise.

Next to it, inevitably, is the tip jar. Normally, you wouldn’t even think of giving the guy any money for patrolling the poop palace. Unfortunately, he has commandeered every paper towel in the place and is holding them hostage like an American spy plane crew that’s crash-landed in China. While you may be able to wash your hands unassisted, you can’t dry them without your pal handing over a two-ply.

Is there a more disturbing level of commerce than this?

Of course, if there had been an attendant, I would have told my airport seatmate about him, because he certainly would have had lotion.