A JOURNEY TO THE LADIES ROOM
Have you been in a public restroom lately?
I have been fascinated for the past year or two by the changes in our public restrooms. Granted, I have only been in the women’s facilities, but I can only guess that the men’s rooms have been similarly updated.
The first thing you notice is that there are no flush handles on the toilets. I remember the first time I saw that. I was horrified! I walked out of the first stall thinking it must be broken and walked into another, then another – but they were all the same. I tried to imagine what could possess the owners of the movie theater to remove the flush handles from the toilets. I wondered if they thought that they would save money because kids wouldn’t be tempted to flush the toilet repeatedly just to see the water swirl down over and over. Maybe they had decided to just have a once a day flush in order to cut down on their water bill. Maybe they had a special key they used to flush all the toilets at once. Maybe you had to be management to flush. Then I had to shift my weight to get to the toilet paper, which, thankfully, was still in the right place. I got the surprise of my life, because as I shifted my weight, the tank flushed all by itself. And there I was with the toilet paper and wondering what I was supposed to do with that! Finally, having no choice, I dropped it in the toilet, and as I got up, the toilet flushed once again, all by itself.
I then remembered a conversation I had had years ago with another woman who worked in the office where I was a secretary. I don’t know how we got on to the subject, but she was shocked, shocked to hear that I actually flushed the toilet in public restrooms using my own bare hands.
“Well, what do you do?” I queried.
She looked at me like I was from mars. “I use my shoe, of course”, she explained.
“Do you take your shoe off and push the lever or do you. . .?”
She looked disgusted. “No, of course not! You just keep the shoe on your foot and flush the toilet that way!”
I was a little daunted. I mean, after all these years I come to find out that all the better people had been flushing with their shoes! Now I grant you that hands may not be altogether sanitary at such a time, but shoes are, well, filthy. The thought made my skin crawl. All those years of picking up germs from other people’s shoes because I was too ignorant to know better!
After that she stopped talking to me. I guess she thought I was contaminated.
Then, of course, after I discovered the handle-free toilets, I discovered the handle-free faucets. I stared at the sink for quite a while, that first time. I put my hands on the faucet thinking there was a trick. I was just about ready to give up, and then I just put my hands under the faucet and – Voila! – Warm water trickled down. I couldn’t believe it! I reached for the liquid soap and scrubbed my hands raw. Of course, the trickle of warm water stopped after two seconds, so I had to keep putting them back under the faucet to trip the sensor several times. I guess the plan was to save water and have a more hygienic audience at the movies. (I foiled them, of course on the water saving plan).
Then it came time to dry my perfectly sanitized hands. By now, I had already surmised that there would be no dirty linen towel revolving through a white metal box over and over. Even the ubiquitous brown paper towels were missing. On the opposite side of the room, I saw the answer. I walked over (dripping across the floor) to the only drying device. It was a chrome dryer at approximately my eye level, which apparently had a sensor on it like the toilet and the sink. I reached up and put my hands out under it and felt a warm-ish breeze. But I was missing the climax of the movie while my hands were being dried one molecule at a time.
So I did what any sensible person would do. I walked back into the stall and ripped off about three feet of toilet paper and hastily and very imperfectly dried my hands with that. (Naturally, as I left the stall the toilet flushed. They’re smart, but they’re not that smart.) I dropped the sodden toilet paper into the nearest receptacle, which happened to be just outside the concession stand. The girl behind the candy counter gave me the fish-eye when she saw that, but at this point, I was just hoping to see the ending of the movie.
Ah, the joys of the twenty-first century.