A Thank You Note To Public Restrooms

I’ve had food poisoning. I drink my regulation eight glasses of water a day. I am a lady who (to quote Cher Horowitz) spends several days each month “surfing the crimson wave.” All of these things mean that, on numerous occasions, I have (again to quote Cher) “had to haul ass to the ladies.”

We use public restrooms all the time, but have we ever stopped to think about what they do for us? They support us during our most embarrassing moments. They don’t judge us for farting, or pooping, or being loud pee-ers or quiet pee-ers or asparagus-scented pee-ers. When they smell nice, we never notice, but if they smell like diarrhea and garbage, it’s all we can think about. We never acknowledge them when they’re readily available; it is only when we need them most and they’re far away that we truly appreciate how much they mean to us.

I once had one of those metal receptacles for used pads and tampons explode while I was sitting next to it and all of its (USED!!!) contents went slip-sliding down my purse. Another time, I had to plunge the toilet in an Atlantic City Starbucks. When I was young, I spent a lot of junior high dances crying in my school’s bathroom. So, yeah, I think I am more than qualified to discuss what makes for a good restroom. (Weirdly enough, they are some of the same qualities that make for a good romantic partner.) Here are things you want to look for in a good public restroom:

This one is a no-brainer. Bathrooms should be clean. There should be no sign of fecal matter (yours or anyone else’s). An underlying eau de bleach is always a reassuring sign.

However, bathrooms aren’t as dirty as we think. You are probably reading this on a phone or a computer. Well, prepare to be utterly squicked out: In a quick Google search, I found that 18% of phones have poo germs on them and keyboards are 60 times more germy than a toilet seat. I didn’t actually click on any of the articles that came up in the search, but I assume those figures are correct.

Temperature is a hard thing to get right. Too warm, and the bathroom gets humid and all the smells amplify until the entire room smells like hot, wet garbage. However, you don’t want to go to the other end of the spectrum, either. Personally, I hate sitting myself down on a toilet, only to have my tushy cheeks greeted by ice cold porcelain. No one wants a frostbitten bum. But a perfectly-temperatured bathroom? Ah, that’s the best place to be when you need to answer nature’s call or read a book or get out of doing something you don’t want to do by pretending to have diarrhea.

I still think fondly of one of my favorite public bathrooms. It was double-doored amazingness. Outside was a solid oak door with a deadbolt. Inside that door, there was a gosh darn antechamber (I am fond of feeling Kate Middleton-levels of fancy when I go to the bathroom) with a sink and a cushy chair. Then there was another solid oak door which led to the toilet room. Once both doors were dead-bolted, I was completely sheltered from strangers passing by and their eavesdropping ears. I may love bathrooms, but I do not love strangers hearing what I do in the bathroom, which ranges from the obvious bodily functions, to dancing and singing along with music, to doing my makeup, to talking on the phone, to reading, to doing my daily affirmations, to crying. (Yes, crying. You show me someone who hasn’t cried in a bathroom, and I’ll show you a robot.)

Good timing:
One of the worst experiences is when the bathroom lights are on a timer, and you (and by “you,” I mean “me”) take longer than the time allotted by whoever sadistically determines the appropriate amount of time someone should spend in the bathroom. Then the lights automatically shut off while you’re still doing your business, and, all of a sudden, you’re a weirdo sitting in the dark on a toilet in a public place. You’re forced into a horrific game of Choose Your Own Bathroom Adventure: If you take the time to pull your pants up before exiting the stall, you take the chance someone will wander in during that time. They will wonder why you are standing in a completely dark bathroom, and you will look insane. However, if you don’t take the time to pull up your pants, and you race from the stall to turn the lights on, then learn from my experience: it is extremely hard to waddle-run across a dark bathroom with your pants around your ankles without tripping.

The bathrooms I hate most in the world:
For all my praise of public bathrooms, there are some bathrooms I hate more than anything in this world, namely airplane bathrooms. My hatred has relatively little to do with the fact that I know airplane turbulence=strangers’ splattered urine. (Well, it has a little to do with that.) It’s not even that I always think the Outbreak monkey is perched somewhere above me just waiting to launch himself at me. (Okay, it also has a little to do with that.)

The main cause of my hatred is knowing that below my bare bottom are miles of nothingness. Each time I sit on an airplane toilet, I am always convinced that it will be my last moment on earth, and I’ll get sucked into the airplane’s plumbing and then thrown out into the oblivion in a big ball of toilet paper and other people’s poo. This fear is enough to sometimes put a damper on my appreciation for restrooms, but my love for them always comes back when I need a good place to poop or cry (but never poop and cry at the same time because that would be weird, and, as I have clearly demonstrated, I am not weird.)

You can read more from Mandi Harris here and here. You can also follow her on Twitter.