You know the story. You’re just getting back from a long day of work. The train pulls up at the last station and your first order of business is to empty your bladder before you attempt the miserable drive home. So you walk into the stall of the nearest public restroom, which is suspiciously deserted, and close the door…

And then it happens.

You must have missed the stench when you walked in but only now, as you sit face to face with the porcelain contraption, do you realize that you walked into a trap. Some concoction is brewing in the bowl before you and before you can make a run for it, hoards of people start to file in, waiting impatiently for you to stop monopolizing the restroom stall. You’ve reached a crossroads.

Before this conversation gets too uncomfortable (a point that I’m sure I reached when I mentioned emptying your bladder), I’m here to inform you that you are not alone. Restroom disasters are perfectly normal experiences and I personally believe we all need to be a little more open about them. So, to demonstrate that point, I will proceed to explain the most serious bathroom infractions one can commit so you may recognize them more easily should they arise in the future.

The Broken Flusher Dilemma

Last week, I walked into the stall of a public restroom to pee. (I understand this is a lot of personal information coming from a stranger but I tend to skip the “acquaintance” relationship and jump right into what best friends or little kids with no social boundaries are comfortable talking about.) I entered one of the two stalls, the other of which was already in use, and did my business as usual. It was at this point in time that the toilet decided not to flush. I tried to reason with the toilet, reminding it of all the good times we’d had together, like the time I’d cleaned it with that foaming bathroom cleaner or the time I sprayed Febreeze in the air to make the room smell like wildflowers for the its convenience, but no. It wasn’t hearing it.

This situation usually ends in one of two ways. One, you slip out the door and escape the bathroom before anyone sees. Or two, every person in the station decides to go to the bathroom at the exact same time, forcing you to make a public exit from your stall and endure the ignominy of spoiling a perfectly good restroom. If you’re like me, you’ll (involuntarily) choose the latter.

The Lingering Smell Dilemma

If you think you may be in this situation, just survey the aroma of your surroundings. If it smells like someone poured sour milk over a pile of mysterious animal droppings that you’d find in Jurassic Park, then you are about to be victim to the “lingering smell” dilemma. You didn’t do it. You know you didn’t do it but the person entering the bathroom after you can only assume that you thought the bathroom smelled much too clean for its own good and you like to watch people suffer. You can try to explain upon leaving that you were not responsible for the odor or subtly lean over to your mother and say very loudly, “Wow, this bathroom just smells AWFUL,” to lead the attention away from you and make them believe that smell has always been there but it’s no use. The public has already chosen their scapegoat.

The Clogged Toilet Dilemma

Whether or not you did it does not matter. What matters is that you’re standing inside of a stall in front of a non-negotiating toilet as there are people lining up outside of the bathroom. You consider jumping out the window or shifting the blame but people saw you enter that bathroom and if you abandon ship, they’ll know. It is around this time that I start to feel bad for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What if they need to get up from the sewers and that is the only toilet available? How do they deal with these situations? They need to get paid more.

Public bathrooms are the worst. They’re smelly, they’re small, they’re dirty and their mere existence forces people into awkward situations. Surely, I am not the only one who has been stranded in a bathroom stall counting down the seconds until I must walk out into the open and sacrifice my normalcy. Have you ever experienced a bathroom blunder? Were you able to get out alive and with your dignity still intact? Have I sufficiently convinced you from never speaking to me if you should ever encounter me in person? (Rhetorical question. I know the answer.) Don’t be shy. Share your thoughts. Share your stories. We’re all just kids with no social boundaries here.

(Image via Shutterstock.)