The Rectangle of Filth. AKA, public restrooms.
I don’t enjoy them. Really, who does? (If you just raised your hand, shame, shame on you.) Even little children hate them – have you ever seen a little child in a public restroom who isn’t covering their ears with a slightly terrified look in their eyes? I believe little kids are more sensitive to the darker spiritual forces in this world, which makes me think we should all enter public restrooms trepidation and respectful fear.
Even though I attempt to avoid them as much as humanly possible, the facts are: I have three kids, and I’m pregnant. Thankfully, my two oldest boys are now fully capable of handling themselves in the bathroom unassisted, but with a three-year old and a bladder that’s fighting for real-estate with an ever-growing fetus, it’s nearly impossible for me to run errands without having to enter what I like to call The Rectangle of Filth.
Entering a public restroom is a risky endeavor that makes my blood pressure sky-rocket, my palms sweat, and my stomach churn. It’s a race to get in and out of that putrid enviornment as fast as humany possible – which is never fast enough, especially with a pokey pre-preschooler in tow.
My daughter has learned to make a game of it – the sort of game that rides on my nerves the whole time. She keeps one hand firmly planted on one ear to protect herself from the noise around us, but with the other, she takes days off my life. Thanks to my insistent repeating of the phrase, “Don’t touch anything. Don’t touch anything!” she now enjoys putting her little, chubby finger as close as she possibly can to the stall door, the toilet paper dispenser, anything, and say, “Wook, mom. I not touch anyfeeng!” She’s also been known to utter a few “Hoopie, hoooooopie!!” at me, which is the ‘scary’ ghost sound she likes to make when something is creepy. For those of you who think three-year old’s humor can’t possibly be sophisticated enough to mock, you haven’t met my daughter. She clearly finds my discomfort in public restrooms a source of entertainment.
There are two scenarios you can face upon entering the Rectangle of Filth. The first, I like to call Russian Roulette. You’re faced with an otherwise empty restroom, and all the doors are closed. You must choose one to kick open (because we only open doors in public restrooms with either our feet or our elbows) out of the availiable stalls. If there are five stalls available, there’s a 99% chance that 4 of those stalls will be unusable due to a plethora of conditions that we all can easily picture in our minds. And there’s a 75% chance that the one acceptable stall won’t have any toilet paper.
If, by some stroke of luck, you manage to find the acceptable stall first, and it’s equipped with appropriate amounts of toilet paper, you breathe a sigh of relief, open, close, and lock it with your feet/elbows, and get down to business, promising yourself you’ll play the lottery later that night. Because really, finding the first stall in acceptable use condition just doesn’t happen. Ever. It’s literally the luckiest day you’ll have all year.
The second scenario is called the Que from Hell. There’s a line. A long line. Your daughter is almost-but-not-quite touching everything and everybody saying, “Wook, mom. I not touch! I not touch!” You’re seriously considering a straight-jacket made for toddlers just for these moments, while trying not to dwell on the fact that waiting in line means one thing: You’ll only get a chance at one stall. A stall that was previously occupied by somebody’s derrière immediately prior to yours.
Here’s the icing on the cake. Watch the person coming out of the stall that you will soon occupy. THEY LOOK GUILTY!!! Why? What on earth were they doing in there that they should look guilty about? It can’t be the act itself – we all do it…so what were they doing, and why do they feel so guilty about it?
This is so much worse than the Russian Roulette scenario. Sure, in RR, you face the danger of having to see a multitude of things that can kill your appetite for weeks to come, but this guilt that strangers carry out of the bathroom stall with them…it keeps me up at night. What were they doing in there?
I have no solution to the public bathroom. Handwashing and anti-bacterial gel once free of the Rectangle of Filth are all I can come up with. But I do have one favor to ask:
If you find yourself in a Que from Hell experience, for goodness sake, when you leave your stall, LEAVE IT WITH CONFIDENCE. Don’t inflict more stress upon the masses who are waiting patiently to relieve themselves in the Rectangle of Filth.