Unlucky 13 - A WANDA Story

These are the cryptic tales from the throne.

Here at Visionstate, we design a bathroom application that helps manage restroom cleanliness by the name of WANDA. What better way to understand its need than to express the tales that make you want to forget your experience at a public facility. Plus, it’s almost Halloween! So curl up next to your fire, grab the pillow you can hide behind, and prepare to be horrified (kind of)…

Unlucky 13

This is a true story.  You can believe it, or not.  It’s up to you.  The choice is yours.

I was employed a year ago as a member of a three member custodial night staff for a major mall in the city.  My hours were from 5pm until 1am daily.  There are benefits to this, especially the relative solitude when the mall is closed, but we do get most of the cleanup from the busier times of the day (between 6 and 9, when people are hungry, off to see a movie, or to shop after work).  My main task is to service the food court washrooms, which can get rather messy during that time.  Thank goodness my employers have installed the WANDA system in the washrooms as they dramatically reduce the need for constant surveillance and monitoring by letting customers notify me when it needs cleaning or when supplies are low. It allows me to be more efficient with my other duties. It also logs our duties and time in the washroom to offer statistical insight to better manage our time and supplies; all we do it sign in every time we enter the washroom for a specific task, click on the specific task options, enter a supply request if needed, and then log out.  It’s a beautiful and remarkable little tool that helps me immensely and from what I understand, the custodian before me, God rest her soul, had a horrible time managing the chaos that can during our busy times before WANDA.  I can’t imagine how horrible that must have been for her.  Such a shame.  Who knows, WANDA might even have perhaps helped in… finding her, that night instead of the following day.  But the restroom wasn’t monitored and when they found her, she was long dead.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me calm down and explain. 

I don’t know anything about previous washroom attendant.  I never knew her name.  I didn’t ask.  The people here now refer to her simply by her old login password number, which was, eerily, 0013.  They now call her Unlucky 13.  Or simply, 13.  She was found tucked neatly into the corner of the stall, sitting against the wall, and surrounded by several unrolled spools of blood soaked toilette paper that apparently she, or the killer, had used in an attempt to clean up the mess.  It was a horrible thing.  Terrible.  I was hired as her replacement the very next week. The WANDA units were installed shortly after the incident, just before I started. I can tell you it really does help with cleanliness, but the other night, I wish it wasn’t there at all.

It all began on my first night at the mall.  I’ll never forget it.  My cleaning duties required that I keep that washroom, the Unit 1 washroom, her washroom, clean. I must admit, I logged in, cleaned that restroom as fast as I could and logged out, avoiding the stall, 13’s stall, at all costs.  I didn’t even look at it.  Even so, I got a terrible feeling when I went in, so I got in, did my job and I got out – as fast as I could and then went about my other duties around the mall.  Around ten that first night, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by my first night’s work, and more than aware of the sense of dread that seemed to emanate from that washroom and echo around the empty halls of that huge place.  Have you ever been in a mall after dark?  It can be a very creepy place, and with what had happened, it was almost unbearable.  During my little breather away from ‘stall 13’, my phone beeped with an email request sent to me from WANDA.  We get WANDA’s messages sent straight us when someone requests our services, but the mall had been locked up for over an hour now and there shouldn’t be anybody, except the other custodians here – and they wouldn’t alert me using WANDA.  They would just get the supplies themselves or clean whatever needed cleaning.  And besides, I had finished the bathroom for the night.  Could it be someone’s child left behind in the mall, or some other scenario where someone needed help getting out.  Why else would someone be alerting me? 

I looked at my phone and read the message.  It said that the very same restroom needed cleaning; specifically that someone requested the floor to be cleaned.  How could this be?  I immediately went to the stall.  The sound of my footsteps bounced around the great empty halls, sounding like massive, exhaustive panting breaths.  When I reached the bathroom, I called out to anyone who might be hiding beyond the door.  Nothing, just the echo of my voice.  “Is anybody in there?”  Again, nothing.  What If someone was hurt and couldn’t respond? I thought.   Here I was, freaking myself out, in the hallway when someone could be needing me inside.  Then I thought, but what if it’s her?  Ridiculous.  My hand went to the door and I began to push it open, when my phone went off again.  It was another email from WANDA, from this WANDA!  Another request, this time needing supplies, needing more toilette paper.

How could this be? I was standing right beside the restroom that the service request came from. This must be a trick they play on new staff, I thought.  But no.  What sort of people would resort to something so tasteless for their amusement?  Certainly people I don’t want to work with, but by all indications, my employers and fellow staff members were all terrific people who would never do something like this.

It had to be her then.  Unlucky Number 13.  Her ghost needed me to supply more paper to tidy up the last of her blood.  It was the only explanation…Don’t be crazy… I gulped, shook off the nerves and entered.

Nothing.  Of course there was nothing.  No blood.  The stall was, of course, stocked and fully supplied.  And while there was a chilly, uneasy feeling in the air, there was no ghost.  No Unlucky 13.  I left the bathroom feeling lighter somehow.  The dark corners of the mall had somewhat grown warmer.  For the remainder of the night, and to till this very day, I haven’t been afraid of that washroom. 

But that isn’t then end.  I received a call from my manager the next day, reminding me to use the login number that he had given me, 0014, when using the WANDA systems to keep more accurate analytics.  I assured him that I did, and he concluded I may have punched in a wrong number by mistake and this reminded him to clear out old passcode numbers. 

Something in me stirred and made me feel unsettled. 

“What number did I accidentally press?” I asked. 

“Let’s see.”  He replied, “Just going over last night’s WANDA stats, it says you logged in at about 10:15 and, why would you bother do this, it says you requested a floor cleaning and minutes later a restock of toilette paper.”  He paused.  “And you logged in as, number 13.  Unlucky number 13.”

I am not one to believe in ghosts, but to this day I still receive an alert to clean that restroom every Halloween.

Chris Smith