Public toilets – the modern version of trial by fire.

5 years ago

Public toilets are the bane of my life. Truth is I’m afraid of them and I have just cause.

As a child, parental reminders to, “cover the seat and don’t touch anything,” when in questionable places became, “BEWARE! Danger lurks around every rim!” Since sitting on public toilets was the equivalent of taking a dip in plague-infested swamp water, I didn’t. Sit. Or crouch. Or anything. Not even at school.

A school day is long and the 40-minute bus trips home on gravel roads became a testament to my iron control. What followed were wiggle-dashes up the longest driveway any child had the misfortune to endure where I was often met by a closed screen door. What was my mother thinking, not having the door propped wide in anticipation of the 100-meter potty dash? I stand by my belief that the damned door was stuck and I had no option but to bust the screen that one time. Or maybe more than one time.

Point is public toilets suck, though sometimes not well, and then we’re flushing multiple times. Like any good samaritan you wait in between flushes while counting the minutes as the toilet bowl refills at the speed of a teen at 6:00 am. Nobody wants to leave floaty bits for the poor sod coming in next. And we’ve all met the toilets whose flushes resemble vortexes of power. That’s when stall doors get wrenched open and we vault to safety well out of reach of the spray zone. Don’t scoff – we’ve all done it.

Could we all agree on a standard height for toilet seats while we’re at it? Nothing worse than thinking your trajectory is accurate and finding yourself flopping onto a kindergarten-sized seat. The loud ‘oofing’ sound that escapes your lips is likely to frighten your neighbour. Then there are the seats that make me question the decision to forego wearing 5-inch stilettos everywhere. Too small, too big, never right. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Potties – not as heartwarming though equally educational.

I love technology so kudos to the genius that came up with motion sensing flushers. Here we are, finally taming the public toilet phobia so rampant in our society (I’m not alone here, right?), when WOOSH the toilet flushes. Could you give a girl some time? Or is this meant as a combination toilet-bidet?

So…we make it out, barely dry and only a bit traumatized. Now it’s time to wash our hands. If we’re lucky the soap is still in the dispenser and not oozing all over the counter. Kudos again for motion sensing doodads. Oh look…someone’s passing by 30 meters away! Dispense! Dispense I say! After scrubbing we rinse off under a dribbling (or torrential) faucet. A study of public toilets confirms that toilet water pressure is inversely proportional to faucet water pressure. Now your derrière is damp and your hands are soapy.

But who’s quibbling? We’re reasonably clean and at least we can go back to socializing without squirming. Just remember DO NOT shake hands until you’ve properly wiped the water off on the back of your jeans. Nobody needs a long-winded explanation of why your hands are damp after you just came out of the restroom. No paper towels + electric hand dryers that don’t dry = guilty explanations.

Hands up if you love the super-charged dryers and you’ve taken extra long drying your hands just to see the skin flap around like a Shar-Pei. No? Me neither.

Between the stink and the sticky floors and the toilet paper stuck to shoes, it’s a wonder public toilets get any use at all. Almost makes me long for the squat toilets at highway rest stops in France. At least there your expectations can never be dashed.

squat toilet, France, photograph, toilet, restroom, Turkish toilet

Squat and then leap out of the way is the best technique.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Kat @ jackstrawlane

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