The Public Restroom Essay

A public restroom is the place we all rely on when we are outside of  the comfort of our homes.  It is the space of rest for our basic necessities and  no place can be without  having one near. I spend much of my time on the road and visit public restrooms every day. Why I’m talking about this subject? No, I am not into any fetish of some bizarre nature, but I find  interesting the way humans behave on a subject that is so natural and necessary to do. I have “studied” public restroom habits in the workplace over the years and am aware of things that happen systematically. So if you’re not disgusted already, please continue reading.

They’re different types of public restrooms: rest area restrooms, mall restrooms, theme park restrooms, restaurant restrooms, gas station restrooms (yuck!) and office or corporate restrooms. Supermarket restrooms are the best; clean, fully stocked and a pleasure to do business in. I will leave out gas station restrooms as most of them are deplorable and to me are the very last resource. Over all, I find public restrooms a safe haven for people just as the airport smoking rooms are for smokers ( if they still around). Here one can unwind carelessly; shy in the beginning, but comfortable as the “business” is taken care off. There is however, some protocol in every public restroom, depending which type of restroom you’re using.

Generally, inside a restroom all manners, class, and egos are left outside. I’ll get into the egos later. Inside the four walls, everybody is equal and with one thing in mind: doing what nature calls. The room gets filled with familiar noises, just like the ones at home, but they’re let go with some sort of fear. It is part of being human to take care of our biological needs, but when we are in public it seems to be weird to do so. People see dogs doing their thing on the street and give a weak, embarrassing laugh at their actions like it is something that it has to be taken care off, but we don’t talk about it. Once one enters a restroom, there is only one thing in mind and that is to take care of “business”. If you’re in a mall, rest area or theme park restroom, you’re free to roam unnoticed. Nobody cares!

Very few people say hi to each other and carry on conversations inside restrooms. Most of the people want to come in and out without even get noticed. I wonder if people pray to walk into an empty restroom. I know I do when I am in a real emergency. The doors open abruptly and there is a sense of urgency in people steps. I have not seen anyone yet walking so casually as if walking in a mall, just wondering around. No, everybody wants to do their thing and get on with their own “real” business outside. If using the urinals, the protocol calls for skipping one urinal. I have never seeing two people side by side in the urinals unless they’re close friends or the restroom is in peak time. In an office or business restroom, casual conversations are normal yet everyone seems to put their conversation on hold until finish with their business. Restaurant restroom protocol is the same but at a smaller scale. Talk is short and general. Passing gas can be heard and it seems to go unnoticed. It appears to be acceptable as long as is short so it won’t disrupt the conversation and does not stink. People do spit on the urinals and blow their noses, just as if they would do in their own homes, I think.

Using the stalls gets a little trickier though. First of all, it is quieter than the urinals, nobody talks. Since the matter to take care of is more difficult for some people, the stalls environment is more relaxing and private thus promotes concentration. Only the shuffle of newspaper, someone coughing up, or the faint, breathless struggle of a bowel movement can be heard. I pray for an empty stall since they’re a hot commodity. Skipping a stall applies here too! Personally, I don’t want to hear the struggle some people go through, let alone the smell. I have been in situations where it seems like a series of bombs are exploding loudly in the stall next to me. I pity the poor man! Broken locks and lack of paper are not so much of a problem, but sitting in a warm toilet seat is. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting in a warm, freshly used seat, where the smell of a good dumped load still lingers in the air. I am already there with my pants down, not going to pull up my pants and move to another stall now.

Most of the time, I get a clean, sparkling toilet, which usually has the toilet seat up, a sign that it was cleaned recently. This is priceless! Sometimes I’ve come in the restroom as another person walks out, typical in a corporate setting.  Now, this is trouble; it creates anxiety to whether which stall was used. In this case, everything is up to guessing and good luck. The only way to find out is by sitting on the toilet seat, unless the smell gives a hint. Flushing an empty toilet once seems to be the norm, maybe twice, and grabbing the sanitary toilet seat cover if there is any. Otherwise a good wipe on the toilet seat with toilet paper would do. At least, for my peace of mind that is. For restrooms that have gaps between the walls and doors, it is a priority to take care of these first. Nobody would like to see me  nor do I want to see their faces. One thing to remember is that these may be people one see and do business with every day. Nobody would like to be identified as the one who just came out of the bathroom after a diarrhea fit. Many times I have heard people saying “man, someone was sick in the bathroom or such and such have diarrhea” Nope! I rather stay anonymous or be invisible. While I sit there doing my thing, looking through the low-cut door, I see people moving in and out. They’re checking out the stalls before going in, inspecting the inside and looking for some reading material scattered on the floor. By the way, this is a sign that stall has being used, so I usually grab the papers and move to another stall.

Over the years I have been able to recognize footwear. No, I don’t look constantly to the floor, nor I have a thing for shoes, just that I am able to find the shoes with the person who wears it and I am pretty damn good at it. I have the same ability with body shape, hands, and voice. So, when I come in the restroom, I can recognize who is in, who came out, or who is having some serious trouble. I keep this “sixth sense” to myself and chuckle discretely when someone who I dislike or had run in with in the past is inside the stall, having a miserable time, vulnerable, and helpless (yeah, shame on me). So much for the big macho guy outside the bathroom with a super ego, but inside the restroom stall is just another human being… going through some rough times though.