Aug 05, 2020

Always necessary, always disgusting: the public restroom experience and finding Shangri-La

There are things we love doing: reading, skiing, shopping, watching football, baking cakes, etc.

When someone says, “Cake is good.” You think “Yeah it is!” And proceed to make one. If skiing is mentioned, you might talk about why it’s your favorite sport. Ultimately, the thought of these activities makes you smile and pay some little homage to the joy induced by them. 

There are things we don’t enjoy, but do anyway without obsessing over how much they suck. Like vacuuming, washing vegetables, ironing clothes and getting up to find the TV remote.

If someone complains about washing vegetables, you just think, “Yeah, it’s annoying, but oh well,” and you go about your merry way.

Then there are activities we hate. We hate them so much we think about how much hate we harbor for this activity.

For me, this is using public restrooms.

Note: I don’t do anything but expel what I’ve drunk in public bathrooms. Anything more is an abomination.

Nothing quite compares with walking into the foul smell of a public restroom. If said water closet also houses wet floors and scummy walls, you’ve just been exposed to a sickening dungeon of illness.

In the developed world — I would venture to say — the public restroom is likely one of the most grotesque venues open to the public. (I word it this way because obviously, a burn trauma center or the trash-laden slums of Calcutta are vastly more awful.)

When someone strikes up a conversation about public restrooms, it inevitably leads to a tactless contest in which each participant talks about some abhorrent public toilet they’ve encountered and often had to use.

What’s so bizarre is that despite my disgust, the 9-year-old boy that I was in a past life thinks it’s hilarious. I can’t stay away from such conversations. It’s revolting—both the topic and the fact that I get the biggest laugh out of such discussions.

Outside of amusing conversations about “public bathrooming,” however, I find the thought and act revolting.

Why? Aside, from any Freudian implications, the public restroom is filthy.

No public restroom is truly clean.

When people say that a certain public place keeps its facilities clean, it’s a delusional wish, much like parents who refuse to admit their child is a lazy freeloader. Instead they say, “She’s artistic!” or “He’s just sensitive.”  In the same vein, people say public bathrooms are “pretty clean,” or my personal favorite, “smell OK.”

None of that matters when you consider that in these facilities, dozens of humans with myriad pathogens, bacteria and even fungi excrete waste. As we all know, some folks are not genteel such as myself, and thus think it’s acceptable to excrete droppings in public toilets.

From my perspective, the filth scale ranges along the lines of “ick” to “gross” to “disgusting like hot sewage juice.”

Unfortunately, on this campus, inhabited by thousands of people, the restroom situation is revolting. More unfortunate: we have to use said bathrooms.

I’ve never been in a bathroom on this campus that I thought was just “ick.” Usually they land somewhere between “gross” and “sewage juice.”

Disclaimer: this is not the fault of our hard-working janitorial staffers. They do as good a job as can be expected when scores of people daily, consistently make filthy messes.

I’ve secretly been searching for the “Shangri-La of bathrooms.”

Strangely, I have found it. Once. It was amazing. I will never tell where it is. It’s all about the journey, right?

I will say, it’s older and has a weird sink positioned in the corner of the bathroom. It’s a singular toilet in a room. We call those singles or studio toilets.

It’s my studio, and that of whoever else finds it. But you never will. Either you won’t recognize it because you aren’t disgusted by public restrooms like I am and, thus, will not have the perspective to understand it’s relative cleanliness.

Or, you won’t realize its literally right under your nose, in a place you see almost every day. Despite its accessibility, it’s amazing so few people use it. Of course, you do have to pay a price (this might be a hint).

To be sure, it’s still a public toilet, even if it is a single and rarely used. It’s gross but it works.

End rant.


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