Public bathrooms unhinge me a tad. Unless absolutely necessary, I do not use them. There are just too many variables, too many moving parts in the machine of a public restroom that can mutate a basic human necessity into a bad experience. Let me clarify before I move on that I am talking (in strictly clinical terms, of course) about Going Number “1” and not Number “2” because that deserves its own day in court.
The thought of all of the germs and pieces of unknown material on the floors of the bathroom present the first possible problem. And as I found out yesterday in Super Wal-Mart, this fear is amplified when I wear sandals. I didn’t plan the right footwear for an outing into a public washroom so my feet were navigating around sanitary napkins, pieces of toilet paper and unidentifiable (and I will gladly leave these bits unidentified) strewn objects. And while no one will give you a second glance if you use HAND sanitizer when you’re leaving the lou, they will absofruitly rubberneck if they see you sit down on the bench outside of the bathroom and slather anti-bacterial gel on your feet.
My biggest fear of going into a public restroom is that I will find a dead body in one of the stalls. While I don’t know the statistics on the likelihood of this happening, it’s always in the forefront of my mind. It doesn’t matter that the bathroom is in a Super Wal-Mart in St. Louis and that there is heavy traffic in and out of the lavatory all day, I am always scared that I will happen to walk in right after the death has occurred and will then have to deal with the aftermath. And whilst I have given this fear a lot of mental energy, I have not contemplated what I will do the day it actually happens.
The next decision is the stall. I always go to the stall that is closest to the bathroom’s entrance because I read somewhere (once, so of course I never forgot it) that statistically the first stall is always the cleanest because it gets the least traffic. What the stats don’t show is that this stall is also the one that ALWAYS has a little nub of lingering poo floating around in it. It really is a disgusting thing to behold but unless there is a line forming, it doesn’t pose a huge problem. I just enter, notice the poo and then immediately do that little u-turn that you do when you either:
a) Observe lingering poo in the bowl
b) See that the toilet is completely filled with what looks like clean toilet paper but is definitely hiding something underneath that WON’T flush and that you don’t want to be blamed for.
So once I’ve secured a stall, I look for a place to hang my journey bag (Read: purse but less girly, more of a rucksack) because I do not want ANY PART of my bag touching ANY PART of the floor at ANY TIME. Usually there is a coat hook on the back of the stall but in well-used lounges sometimes the hook is broken off or dangling by one screw. As a way of trying to stifle complaints about these kinds of things, most public restrooms have secured that little stainless steel four inch slab on the wall RIGHT ABOVE THE COMMODE, so that you can chance the contents of your purse tipping into the toilet. Clearly this was designed by a man who didn’t mind fishing his sunglasses out of a pee-filled toilet and plopping them back on his head. If I don’t have a coat hook, I do another u-turn, line permitting.
I do not sit on the toilets. I don’t care if I watched the janitor scrub the seat. I am not sitting on that. Even if they supply me with that little thin toilet seat cover that floats off in the draft caused by your incoming butt right before you sit down, I am not letting my skin touch that seat. I hover.
Hovering brings its own dilemmas to the table. The Hover works well if it’s a manual flush toilet because then you just turn around and stomp on the handle with your foot and go about your day. But if it’s an automatic flusher, the Hover can cause the system to flush too soon, forcing you to have to wave your hand around in front of the sensor (or in case of an emergency push the little black rubber button by the sensor, totally defeating hands-free flushing) The Hover can also be to blame for the automatic toilet not flushing at all, even after you’re done, again causing the frantic hand waving.
Once you’ve finished what you came to do, you have to operate the sinks. Soap dispensers and sinks are unpredictable. Yesterday I pushed the soap dispenser vigorously, thinking that a pink gel would slowly ooze downward from the nozzle but instead I was assaulted by a soapy foam flying across the entire expanse of bathroom and splattering the baby changing station and the wall on which it was attached, as well as leaving me spotted with watered down bubbles.
I like the faucets that turn on like the ones I have at home. I don’t mind touching the handle because when I get out of the restroom, I’m going to reach into my rucksack and use hand sanitizer anyway (maybe even on my feet) I don’t like the ones that you push down and get a teaspoon full of water or the ones that have a motion sensor. Motion sensor faucets make you do a little hand dance underneath the spigot to find the sensor. Then it gives you about three and a half seconds of water before it automatically shuts off and you have to hand jive again. No matter which faucet it is, out of frustration, I give up and head to the drying station, leaving the sticky soap in the little webby bits of flesh between my fingers.
Drying my hands doesn’t pose too many problems. I like the idea of the hot air dryer but in reality I’m not patient enough to use it so I end up drying my sopping hands on the bottom of my t-shirt as I exit, making it look like I had an incident in the stall. The automated paper towel dispensers force me to repeatedly hand jive again because I cannot possibly dry my hands on the one inch piece of brown butcher paper that it spurts out with each dance. The old-fashioned lever ones leave me saying “What’s the point of washing my hands if I’m touching a lever that a billion other nasty hands have touched?” No matter how I wash or dry my hands, I will sanitize immediately upon exit.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression that I am a germaphobe who skitters through life in a perfect little plastic bubble. These perceptions don’t always hinder my life, I just think that sometimes there are things that we all think but no one ever talks about and I want to tear down that wall.
I just want to give you your Oprah A-ha moment wherein you don’t feel alone. Consider these my volunteer public service hours. Unless I somehow get arrested, then I’ll try to use them in a plea bargain so that I don’t have to pick up trash along side of the interstate.