Well. Judging from the post title, this may not be a topic you want to read about. I don’t intend to gross people out with descriptions, but if you find discussion on bodily functions in restrooms to be revolting, this is your chance to hit the back button now.
I’m lucky that I have always been fine with using public restrooms. As a child I went into the same stall as my mother and both of us took our turns on the toilet before flushing. A few times in the past when it was just me and my dad, he would check the men’s restroom first and if it was empty of occupants, he would usher me inside to use a stall in there. I semi-recall being confused by the sight of the urinals since women’s restrooms didn’t have those.
At home, it felt totally normal to have instances where either or both of my parents were brushing their teeth and/or running the sink while I was on the toilet. It made for a comical, weird scene. My discomfort over the way things were slowly became apparent when I got to be around 8 or 9. It was about the same time as when I grew uncomfortable with sleeping with my bedroom door open and needed either of my parents to close it for me after they helped me get ready for bed.
I guess the older I got, I developed more of a self-conscious awareness of my surroundings? I was no longer as forthcoming with unlocking the bathroom door if I was inside and my mom knocked in order to be let in. I can’t remember ever having a conversation with her about it, except I found a loophole in changing things by simply finishing up in the bathroom, and only then, unlocking the door for her.
The first time I ever went into a public restroom on my own was an awkward experience. My mom was away in some store nearby at the time I was led to the women’s restroom by my dad. I pushed the door to get in and inside was a long line. Ahead of me were two women who smiled at me. They occasionally threw me looks of sympathy or interest; I wasn’t sure which. I think I was more freaked about how short I was in comparison to them and the long wait. They seemed curious over seeing that I was alone and asked where my mom was. Right after I answered them, I moved away slightly as the door was pushed open by another woman coming in to wait on the line. Using a restroom stall on my own, the whole space seemed so much bigger. After I came out to wash my hands, I ran into the two women again. They made eye contact with me and continued smiling at me as I coincidentally exited the restroom at the same time as they did. Outside, I spotted my dad. My memory is fuzzy, but the women said something to him about me. I guess it was a good thing??
Now that I think about it, the togetherness of friends going to the restroom together is a herd mentality I don’t get. Do I really need to hear my friends pee and for them to hear me pee too? No, but a couple of times I’ve just needed to go at the same time as them. Also, why do people hold a conversation while peeing? I don’t understand. The one time I felt okay with it was when a woman in the next stall to mine didn’t have any toilet paper and asked if I could pass her some. I used to think toilet paper in public restrooms were incredibly cheap looking but now I realize they’re probably so thin to allow for easier flushing down the toilet.
I’ll be frank. The one thing I will probably never be 100% used to in a public restroom, particularly a really busy one with multiple stalls in use, is the various sounds of peeing or pooping going on. I’m never afraid to “go” while other women are in the same restroom as me, although I do have moments of feeling awkward. Like those times when I go into a stall at the same time as a stranger and it’s so quiet until the silence is broken by either of us, lol. Mostly I try to be understanding of whatever bodily functions I hear. We’re all human and can’t help it if our bodies make strange noises at weird times. As much as I would like to be an ethereal unicorn who poops rainbows, I am not. 😔
It’s common to utilize the next stall that becomes available, particularly in busier restrooms where people are always going in and out and there’s no room to be choosy. It’s usually not so bad, but I cannot stand those who flush and leave the stall without wiping down the toilet seat to remove their leftover pee splatter. Disgusting!! It’s just there when I enter the stall and suddenly I am responsible for cleaning up someone else’s mess. In more vacant restrooms with more open stalls, I always check first and if it’s gross, I move on to a different stall.
I hate dealing with stalls not closing properly or ones without hooks on the door for hanging belongings. Sometimes jammimg a balled-up wad of toilet paper in the broken lock helps. Without a door hook for my stuff, it’s a balancing act of keeping my bag strap on my shoulder while using the toilet.
Some single restrooms in cafes require passcodes. The practice seems to vary from store to store. In at least one, I’ve overheard the cashier specifically state to a customer that it must be obtained from the receipt after a store purchase. In others, people just ask for the code and get it. I do fear being turned away if I ask, and as dumb as it sounds, I have sometimes worked around that by waiting outside after someone has gone in so when the person exits later, I can get in without the passcode.
My worst beef with these types of restrooms is they’re often not very tidy. Either there’s no more toilet paper, the wastebasket is overflowing, toilet paper and debris is all over the floor, or the toilet itself doesn’t flush properly. For goodness sake, if customers need to go to the trouble of inputting a code to get in, at least can the store make their restroom cleaner?
The three essentials I always carry with me are dry tissues, a travel size perfume spray, and some wet wipes. You never know when desperate times call for desperate measures in a public restroom. Once I was in a park restroom with no toilet paper. Luckily I had my tissue packets. I felt bad thinking about whoever might be using the stall after me, so I left a packet on the toilet paper dispenser. Believe me, I’ve been in past situations where I had no choice but to “air-dry” after peeing and it was not fun. I wouldn’t wish it on another person.
The absolute worst restroom scenario is using a porta potty. In my experience, the ones I encountered have no flush capacity, though there are flushable porta potties in existence. Very recently I got lost at a side of a park I wasn’t familiar with and really needed to pee. Like ASAP because my bladder kept pushing at me. Into the porta potty I went and… It was horrible. Let’s just say it left a searing impression and took me a while after this to forget what I had seen. 😨 Anyway, I did my business and left. A few minutes later a female jogger make a pit stop in the same stall before popping out with gagging expression on her face.
Once in another country many years ago, I used a squat toilet. It was definitely different than what I was used to. I had been so preoccupied with maintaining my balance over the toilet that I barely heard a woman shouting at someone on her way out of the restroom. Only after I finished and was ready to leave the stall, mortification struck me. The stall door was ajar; meaning I didn’t lock it properly and the woman who presumably walked past had seen me. I can’t believe I unintentionally flashed a total stranger! 😱
Featured Image by Tom Rogerson.