Public Restrooms

I’m coming at this subject from both angles.  Like most people on this planet, I too, have to use public restrooms from time to time.  I have also spent many years cleaning them.  So before any custodians get up in arms, know that I have been there and appreciate a well maintained bathroom more than most.

Some restrooms are always clean, and some are always filthy.  I love it when you go to a place that’s off the beaten path and they have a clean restroom.  It catches you off guard and  you come out bragging about it to your friends.

Our local hardware store is in a little strip mall. It has one of the nicest public restrooms I think I’ve ever been in.  If you walk one store over, you would think no one ever cleans that bathroom.  I am sickened to think that employees will use these disgusting restrooms and then touch my purchases.  I often wonder why someone doesn’t just step up and clean them.  It’s not that hard.  I would rather clean it myself than use it in its current state.  

 The first thing I notice when I enter a restroom is: do I need to look under the stall to see if someone is in there or can I see at a glance if someone is in there?  Why do the doors have to be so much smaller than the door frames?  Why even bother with doors if they aren’t hiding anything? You know it’s bad when your friend walks in and has a conversation with you and you can look her directly in the eye while the door is closed.  Come on!  Spend the extra money on the stalls and buy the doors with an inch more on either side. I feel so naked in those things.   This also applies to doors that are too short or hung too high. I always go to the handicap stall.  There’s a little bit  of guilt that goes along with it,.  but I’m using it.

The next thing is: Why are the sinks always wet.  I know some faucets are leaky and I get that.  What I don’t understand is when there is no leak; why can’t people clean up after themselves.  Every morning the sinks start out dry.  I would love to find the first person that leaves the sink wet and make them drink that water off the sink with a straw.  Ewe, I just grossed myself out.  Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but at the same time that first person’s actions are what make everyone else afraid to touch the sink all day long.  Is it too hard to grab some toweling and go back and wipe it off?  Also; the sink in a public restroom is not supposed to double as a water park to keep your kids entertained.  Clean up after them.  It’s the least you can do for making us shop with them.  Just kidding, I love kids.  I’ve had a few and I do understand what it’s like to take three little ones with you everywhere.  You have to pick your battles and a public restroom is not a great battle ground.  You can’t even yell at them because it’s also an echo chamber.  By the time you yell the third word of your sentence the first word is coming back at you. You can’t even understand yourself much less expect anyone else to understand what you’ve just said. That sets off another chain reaction.   Now the kids know it echo’s and they start yelling too.  I’m exhausted just thinking back on it.  Well, I guess we can let the parents slide a little on this one.  But as for the germ-a-phobic adults; buy some hand sanitizer and quit getting my shirt wet! 

How about those purse hooks?  Good idea or bad idea?  Personally, I don’t use them for a couple of reasons.  More often than not they’re hung to high.  This allows someone to reach in, grab your purse and get out before you have a chance to pull up your pants.  Not such a big deal if you’re in one of those stalls where your knees practically touch the door.  At least then you have a 50% chance at grabbing your purse back.  Also, what if it’s that time of the month?  Then your purse is hanging on the door and you can’t reach your supplies.  The struggle is very real.

Speaking of your knees hitting the door, I have been in some restroom stalls that were so tiny that I couldn’t even take a three year old in with me. If I had closed the door with both of us in there we wouldn’t have been able to get it open again.  Even if we were both standing straight up it would take an incredible amount of contortion to get the door open again.

My favorite situation is when I am finished with my business and the door won’t unlock.  I have literally had to crawl under a stall door at the mall to escape the bathroom.  Of course this happened to me in the winter when the floors were all wet and sloppy from people tromping in with snowy boots. 

How about the doors that don’t line up and won’t lock? Is it true that a huge building like a department store will settle so much as to create a two inch difference between the door lock and the jam, or are the doors hung improperly to begin with?  I’m sure there must be some money available somewhere to do a study on this.  I try to avoid using these stalls but alas, when the bathroom is full and it’s the only stall open you have no choice.  I’m rather short so when a stall doesn’t latch I have two options.  Try to hold it shut with my hand or use my foot.  Depending on how far away the door is from the stool determines which one I can use.  If it’s too far I have to use my foot.  In a sitting position most people can reach farther with their legs than with their arms.  Also if you have to reach too far, it pulls you away from the stool.  That’s no good.  If you’re lucky you will have brought one of your children and they can act as sentry for the moment.  Unless of course you have one of those children that likes to visit other bathroom users under the stalls.  I have had a couple of surprise visitors over the years.  It cracks me up every time.  The mom will be yelling a few stalls down for the kid to come back and of course he can’t understand her because of the echo.  The kids have this look like what they’re doing is completely normal as they scoot by on their back. they just say hi and continue to the next stall.

One of the handiest things I’ve found in restrooms is a jump seat hanging from the wall.  You can actually strap your child into it while you go.  It’s a very funny and awkward looking thing.  Your child is suspended from the wall which makes them look like they’re levitating.  My daughter looked so confused the first time I put her in one.  I wish I had taken a picture for her scrapbook.  It’s an awesome invention, except that a lot of women travel with more than one child and usually very close in age.  Where do you put the rest of them?  The one on the wall ends up crying because the other ones are free to walk around.   They could just put in a second toilet paper dispenser and fill it with duct tape.  Problem solved.

Seat covers I’m sure were supposed to be the savior of the germ phobic community.  The problem is, that no one can figure out how to use them correctly.  They never completely cover the seat and it seems that once you get up part of it will fall into the water, which for germ phobic people could potentially be the most stressful thing that happens to them all day. If you care about other people at all you will try to devise a plan to get that thing off the seat.  If not you just walk away and there it lies.  So even if other people who come in aren’t germ phobic, they are not going to touch that thing either.  One stall is automatically eliminated from use until the custodian can take care of it.   What if you’re in a small store or restaurant with only one stall?  Now there’s no bathroom.  There are those that will refuse to even sit on a public toilet seat.  They’ll hover above it and hope to hit the hole.  What kind of thought process leads people to believe that this is even an option?  Do me a favor.  If you’re going use this method, start training yourself at home.  Hover above your own toilet for a couple of weeks before you start to deploy this method in public.  Once you are good at it then start training your kids in the method.  I know you people are in the public restrooms holding your little ones just inches off the seat and coaching them to do their business like mommy or daddy do.  I’ve heard you.  

There has been more than one study of bacteria in public restrooms.  The worst place for bacteria growth is on the floor.  The cleanest place is the actual toilet seat.  So think about this the next time you enter a public restroom.  You walk into the stall, put your belongings on the floor and hover above the toilet when you would be better off to hold your things and plant your fanny firmly on the seat.  You walk out with fewer bacteria.  Think people, think!  

Why is the garbage can always directly under the paper towel dispenser?  It’s not as bad as it used to be.  Most places have done away with the cloth towels and use paper now.  The dispensers I hate most are the ones where you have to push the button and crank the handle.  They are hung too high most of the time and the water from your hand runs down your arm when you reach up to turn the crank.  I still have scars on my leg where my son grabbed onto me in fear the first time I used a hand blower in his presence.  That was exciting for everyone in the bathroom.  It made me wonder if hair dryers would become an issue for him. I imagined him curled up in a fetal position in the corner of his room while his wife did her hair.

Have you ever opened a changing table in a public restroom and found a used diaper? That’s if there even is a changing table. What in the world could make someone leave a dirty diaper in there?  I can only imagine that she was either very frustrated with a screaming child and forgot or the experience ended with a child dropped on the floor who then needed immediate medical attention.  I go to these extremes because I don’t like to think that there are people who would intentionally leave a nasty diaper for someone else to deal with.  I prefer instead to think of injured children apparently.  

I’ve come to view restrooms in a different light than I did as a teenager.  In high school we used the toilet tanks to hide the small bottles of Ten High we would borrow from our grandparent’s liquor cabinet.   Now there are no tanks.  Just pipes with buttons you may or may not have to push to flush what are supposed to be automatic flushers.  When they work they are awesome.  They are the best invention ever.  When they malfunction you end up with a wet bottom because they flush as you sit down or halfway through your business.  Those toilets are high powered too.  Don’t always assume someone has peed on a seat until you watch one of those things work.  They send a shower out of the toilet bowl into the air well above the seat.  Too bad they can’t figure out a way to turn that water into a disinfectant.  That would be so American.  If they could do that, everyone would be trying to find the wet seat to sit on.  If you didn’t come out of the stall with wet spots on your pants we’d know that you were the one hovering.  There, another problem solved.  I can’t make people sit on the toilet.  Hell, I can’t even keep my husband’s cat from pooping right outside of its litter box.  But in the end complaining makes me feel better.  

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