“Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance.” King George V
It’s hard to think of a more unpleasant necessity than a public restroom. I am thankful to have the Room of Requirement, but it’s not somewhere I’ve been and wished I could stay longer.
If you have access to the world outside your home, you’re probably aware that there’s an attempt being made to politicize peepee. And it must be serious if I know about it, because I generally block out anything regarding politics. I mean, they’re calling it a bill, which, if I remember the Schoolhouse Rocks segment correctly, that means the next step would be a law. Right? A law about who can use which bathroom? I’ll admit a bit of naiveté here and say that I’m truly not that concerned about about my restroom mates and what sort of reproductive equipment they might have. I’m more troubled by what sort of audiovisual equipment they might have. (I’m also troubled by the fact that this is my second blog post built around urination. I have to say, this is not where I thought things were going.)
I’m filing everything about this situation away in a cabinet I call “Things I Don’t Understand.” It nestles nicely there alongside Quantum Physics, All Things that Happen in the Middle East and Why We Have 4 Remotes for One Television.
But here’s what causing me the most pause about this situation: Who is policing the attendees in the bathrooms?
You see, I’ve been in a lot of public restrooms. You know how as people get older they have those “bucket lists” of things they want to do or places they want to go? Well, I have kids, and kids have those lists, too. Except their lists have only two entries:
- GO TO ALL THE BATHROOMS IN ALL THE PLACES.
- TOUCH ALL THE THINGS IN ALL THE BATHROOMS IN ALL THE PLACES.
I digress. Back to my original query. How do we even know who is using which bathroom? What if my skirt isn’t triangular enough? Does that mean I’m denied access? How do we report an infraction? Is there a hidden button somewhere we could hit that would blast Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” over a loudspeaker? But then who would answer the call? Because I’m here to tell you that there is no one willing to step up and take charge of public restroom infractions. I recently had the pleasure of patronizing a public restroom that had no paper products whatsoever. I walked from stall to stall handing out tissues from my Kleenex pocket pack. I felt like a cross between Wonder Woman and Mary Poppins, saving the day with just the supplies in my giant bag! I think that even if there were a bathroom attendant standing at the door checking ID’s (who would be a government employee, since this legislation only covers restrooms in schools and government buildings), that person would undoubtedly put their hands up in the universal “Not My Job” gesture when asked about much of anything else.
Let’s imagine for a moment that there actually was a bathroom monitor in public restrooms. Someone to whom you could voice your concerns. What would be on your comment card? You know I’ve got a running list. First of all, let’s talk about the general cleanliness of this place. Abhorrent. A little Swiffer WetJet and some Lysol action would go a long way in making us feel like we’re not going to walk out of here as Patient Zero. Next, can all the automated equipment please get their acts together? The toilet flushes three times while I’m doing my business, but the sink will only run water for .7 seconds. Or maybe not at all. Because it’s not actually automated, which I find out only after standing there like a bad magician passing my hands under the faucet 20 times. And how about that towel dispenser that spits out 2 feet of towels every time I turn my head but NOT when I wave my hand in front of it? Yeah, that one right there. The one mounted on the wall beside the jet engine hand dryer that’s led me to become clinically hearing impaired. Good thing I’ll have dry hands when I start learning sign language. Sure would hate to be slinging a bunch of water around the way someone did on this counter.
And you know what? I bet if there were a bathroom monitor, the requests would probably have to be written out on a government form. But they’d always be out of forms because we’d just end up in desperation having to use that paper for other “stuff.” Which would then clog the toilets, which the monitor wouldn’t attend to (“Not my job!”) and now we all have some strange disease that you get from having soaking wet feet in a public restroom.
Like many of us, I find safety and comfort in sameness. I live in the town where I grew up. I shop at the same mall I did as a child. I park in the same parking lot and go in the same entrance and use the same public restroom where my mom would take me going on 30 years ago. In all that time, the mall has been renovated, the department store has changed ownership at least twice, and this particular restroom has been updated several times over. But you know what? Every time I go in that bathroom, it smells exactly the same as it always has. Like I just missed a person who was there to smoke a cig, do a big stinky and then spray some cinnamon air freshener in a half hearted attempt to cover her tracks. Or maybe in a wholehearted attempt to leave her mark. Either way, the scent is so unmistakable that I’ve often looked around the store trying to find the employee who’s taking her smoke breaks there.
I may have spotted her in the shoe department.
But you know how the people in the shoe department are always disappearing into that back room and never coming back. So I can’t be certain it’s her.
Anyway. The smell. It is really, really awful. Which is a shame because it’s a very nice restroom. It’s conveniently located (hence why I’ve been making it a regular stop for so long, despite the odor) and has this super trendy lounge area and everything. But no one’s lounging in there! No one’s even thinking about it! No one is staying a minute longer than they have to because of the Eau de CiggieCinnaCrap. You take care of your business and you leave the premises.
I think the point I’m trying to make here is that life can be stinky sometimes. Every day we all do hard things and no one accommodates us. For some people, it’s trying to figure out which restroom to go into. For other people, it’s how to graciously put aside what makes them uncomfortable so that someone else can have access to the things they need. And then there are other people who face uncertainty and fear every time they walk out their doors and the only way they know how to cope is to focus their fear on someone they think represents a threat. Different battles, similar anguish. And you know what? All those different types of people have to, ahem, take care of business. No sign, no attendant, no super trendy lounge area is going to turn a public restroom into a blissful haven, just like no omission of those things is going to turn it into a den of evil. Maybe we could all just identify with trying to get the hell out of there while touching the least amount of surfaces. And, hey, whether in or out of the restroom (and especially when in line for it), common decency and courtesy are always welcome, and using common sense will keep us far safer than any legislation will.
As for me and mine, I’m sticking with the plan to always use the at-home facilities before going anywhere. You know there’s always a line for the ladies’ room. And if it gets too long, I just might identify with that other restroom with the shorter line. And I don’t really want anyone giving me any CiggieCinnaCrap about it.