There are few things on this planet that cause me as much stress as using a public restroom. They seem like simple enough establishments to operate. Use, flush, wash hands, throw out towel, exit. But this is not what happens. It appears (from my personal experience) that it goes something like this;
Use while dancing around
Dump entire contents of soap dispenser on counter
Wash hands with no soap and splash water around sink area
Scatter crumpled paper towels on the floor around trash can
For some reason or another, public restrooms turn people into wild savages completely incompetent of behaving in a sanitary manner.
Our seemingly civilized country has restrooms that constantly leave me on the edge of a nervous breakdown. And while some restrooms have made tremendous advancements that really put them on the forefront of potty wizardry, I find myself struggling with the same issues no matter where I go.
Every restroom I have ever used has always had a very distinct smell. They either smell like they were just hosed down with bleach, or they smell like an elephant farm. There is no in between.
My first problem has to do with the toilet itself. They are often in poor condition, or have a wobbly seat, or are not clean. Sometimes they are all three. And those little slices of tissue paper that even MacGyver couldn’t figure out how to use do NOTHING to improve the situation. I usually go through about 5 before I get one to work that isn’t ripped or hasn’t sunk to the bottom of the toilet by the time I sit down.
But even if I can bring myself to sit on the porcelain throne, I am very insecure. Nobody looks cool sitting on a toilet. Nobody sits on the toilet with perfect posture and their legs crossed. Nobody leans back like their sitting on a Lay-Z-Bowl. No, everyone sits on the toilet the same way; hunched over, forearms on knees, in the ready position, with their face about 18 inches from the door.
My greatest fear, as I imagine most people’s is, is of somebody bursting into the stall. For whatever reason, people don’t precariously open stall doors, they swing them open as though they are going to yell “Surprise!”
Whenever people knock on a restroom door while I’m in there I get a shot of adrenaline and for some reason I resort to the third person, and in a panicked quasi-pubescent voice shout “SOMEONE’S IN HERE.”
Someone’s in here? What the hell is wrong with me? I guess I get paranoid that if I say “I’m in here” they may not know who I am. And the last thing I want to do is encourage more conversation at that point.
“You're in there in there? Well who are you?”
Yea, no thank you. I think from now on I will resort to Spanish and just scream “OCCUPADO!
In general I really prefer the handicapped stalls. I know its probably not the most ethically responsible thing to do but to be honest I just feel more comfortable. There is space, I can stretch my legs if I want to. Comparatively the other stalls seem just a little claustrophobic. Regular stalls are so tiny I feel like I’m crouched in a cannon waiting to be shot into space… with no pants. And that’s a bad feeling.
So if I can find a toilet that doesn’t look like its falling apart, bring myself to sit down on it, AND lock the door, I am about ready to relax. But some people insist on talking. Talking while standing next to somebody at a urinal is bad enough. I can barely concentrate on one task at a time. But once I am in the stall that is the fortress of solitude. That is quiet time, concentration time. Ladies, from what I understand talking to each other while in the stall is commonplace and accepted. That is fine, you may continue to do so as I will not (to the best of my knowledge) be using your restroom in the near future.
Most of the time while I am in the restroom all I am thinking about is how long it will be until I can get the hell out of there.
I’m not opposed to noise in the restroom. Actually I prefer it. The restroom is a place of noise, of bodily functions. We should feel free to be ourselves there. But perhaps that might be easier if we had some medium volume bossa nova music playing. Something that could act as kind of a distraction sound if you will.
I don’t like to touch anything in the restroom either. I push the door open with my shoulder and flush the toilet with my foot. If it were up to me the whole restroom experience would be very similar to a surgical operating room. I would back into the room where someone would put latex gloves on my hands and scrubs over me. I would do my business and then I would throw everything in the trash on my way out.
But until I can set that up I will be forced to do what I always do; Hold my breath, not touch anything, and be ready at a moment’s notice to scream OCCUPADO!!!
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