Monday, May 22, 2006

The Restroom Public

There are, in life, two events that are inescapable, the first being death and the second being, for lack of a better term, pooping. All people face these two things at some point, though generally with a widely varying degree of trepadation between them, unless a burrito combination plate is involved.

Yes, everyone in history has had to excuse themselves to use the bathroom, chamber pot, woods or what have you. The mightiest Kings and Emperors of the world all defecated. Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Moses all felt the call of nature. Everyone of your friends, family, coworkers and superiors all have done it, as have your ancestors, leading down to you. Yes, that means that your Grandpa pooped when he was off in Europe fighting the Nazis, themselves defecators.

Distasteful as the thought might be, it is also comforting. No man or woman is so great that they can transcend our daily needs. It's humanizing, and I for one am glad nobody gets a pass. Certainly, it's something to which we can relate: death might also be a shared experience, but it has the unfortunate side-effect of limiting conversation from those who have gone through it.

One thing we never read or hear about is when those leaders might have been stricken with a sudden need to evacuate. Did Hitler really have to pee at one of his rallies, perhaps? Maybe Julius Caesar was thinking he could just get done at the Forum real quickly before he had to go. Did Poncius Pilate think over his decision on the can? Nobody ever tells us, and that's a shame.

One result of our collective doody needs is the requirement for public facilities. These range from whitewashed, clean facilities with lovely floral patterns and wall sconces to dank, steaming pits dug haphazardly in the ground, where a single misstep would end only in human misery. If you have been to a gas station in the Southwest United States, you have encountered the latter.

There is always the question of toilet etiquette. One widely-known rule is to separate yourself from other expellers of waste by the maximum allowable distance. Many feel fear and trepadition when entering a nearly-full restroom: this is normal, and you should feel anxiety, because someone could be making judgements about you based on how you conduct yourself in there. If you foolishly break one of the unpublished and unknown rules that vary from person to person, woe will be your only companion hithermore.

Among public restrooms, there is no greater sublimity than the empty restroom complete with vacant handicapped stall. Seated there, you can survey the great and wide tracts of your domain, enclosed by the stall's flimsy metal walls. Here, in peace, you can let your mind wander over whatever choice memories or troubles you have, and contemplate them with a peace unbeknownst to others. If Heaven has any chance of living up to it's reputation, then it's restrooms must consist entirely of handicapped stalls.

There are problems of hygiene in these places. Fortunately, modern science has done away with the idea that troublesome bacteria could somehow infect you in these places. If the crack staff of the cleaning crew that comes bi-weekly to replenish the paper products in the restroom and pour bleach haphazardly all over the place isn't a comfort, then surely you must be put at ease by the semi-translucent sheet of paper separating your backside from the well-worn seat. Certainly, there is no way to violate that impermeable and sturdy material. For you worrywarts, use a few of them until they approach the thickness of a hair.

For those restrooms without bidets (and I believe no American establishment uses them), you are similarly greeted with a roll of toilet paper, crudely ripped by whoever's hand preceded yours. One thing is for certain- that person was no doubt a paragon of health and civility, and you can be sure that they had no form of bowel irritation.

There is progress once one moves to wash one's hands. Automatic toilet flushers, soap dispensers, faucets and paper towel dispensers/blowdryers all offer you a way to stay disease-free on your way out of the restroom. While you may need to flail your hands wildly to get them to work, it's well worth it knowing that you are antiseptic for the few seconds before you touch the door handle. These devices are not universal, however, and there is an inverse relationship between the availability of such devices and the places where they're needed.

So, what have we learned? All people go to the bathroom: shocking in and of itself. But more important is how we go to the bathroom, and if we have to use the air freshener afterwards, and why they put up a sign instructing food workers to wash their hands, because they should do that anyways. This, more than anything else, is what makes us human.


At 11:25 PM, Blogger jackt said...

I really hate those automatic infrared flushers. They always go off at the wrong time.

At 12:31 AM, Blogger ChickyBabe said...

My immediate reaction is to say, "what a load of crap!" :P

I have an aversion to touching anything in public restrooms. As for the detergent-like liquid soap, eww!

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Knows It All said...

true, it makes us human. But can't we just take a pill and be done with all that?

ALthough the peaceful solitude is quite nice when you can find it.


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