Like most women who have had young children in their lives, I can find the public restroom in any grocery store fairly quickly. The other day I used one in a squishy little mom ‘n pop place — the bathroom was palatial, bigger than a bedroom, with the toilet far at the other end of the cavernous room.
My first thought upon closing the door was, “There had better be a lock, because if someone opens the door while I am, um, sitting, then the entire grocery store will see me.”
Yes, there was a lock — a tinny little button that wouldn’t hold up to an aggressive person’s impatient rattling. As I was, um, sitting, I glanced at the door and saw the bronzed sign: Did You Remember to LOCK the Door?”
What on earth would one do on realizing that, “Oh, Dear God, I forgot to lock the door . . . ”
Another bathroom, in an upscale deli that had Manhatten prices but prided itself on its “authentic Eurpoean decor” (rickety old tables, mis-matched chairs, servers who called out, “Bob! Your sandwich is ready!”) had a hand-lettered sign on the back of the women’s toilet:
“Customers! You MUST hold the handle down when you flush until ALL of the water goes down! This is YOUR responsibility!”
Apparently, the owners did not feel it incumbent upon themselves to hire a plumber. Interestingly enough, this establishment is no longer in business.
My local fabric store has a restroom that requires a key to enter, a giant key on a giant ring — something that Sherlock Holmes would use to open up an ancient box of mysterious items. What it means for me is that I announce to everyone in the store, “I have to use the bathroom!” The announcement is a long one as the key never opens the door on the first try (“It takes a little jiggling, dear”), and while other women are looking through quilting supplies behind me, I am frantically jiggling.
Church bathrooms have to be one of my favorites, as they have signs — not divine ones — all over:
“Ladies!” (what is it with the exclamation points?) “Please use the little wastebaskets to deposit personal items!”
If you are curious enough to pull out the liner to the wastebasket and look at the bottom of the container, you’ll see another sign: “Ladies!” (I assume the sign in the men’s wastebasket says “Gentlemen!”), “Do not deposit trash in this container unless there is a liner in place!”
There is no sign saying, “If there is no liner in place, then use the little wastebaskets in the stalls designed for personal items!”
On the mirror is a laminated sign, nagging, “Wash your hands!” At least the hands are not in praying mode.
My mechanic must do woodworking on the side, because the little tiny keys to his restrooms are on little tiny rings attached to 3″ by 6″ slabs of wood, clearly identified by “Woman” and “Man.” Not that it matters since he always leaves the doors unlocked anyway.
Another restaurant boxed in its bathroom in the hallway between the food order spot and the video arcade. As one is sitting, again facing a door too far away to keep shut with one’s foot, one sees the shadow of people’s feet as they walk back and forth, frequently stopping to rattle the door as you pray that the $1.50 lock will hold.
The dentist’s office arranged its waiting room so that all of the chairs circle around facing the door to the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but something about the dentist’s office triggers my need to use the bathroom, yet I am reluctant to stand up in front of a group of people and try out the door. If somebody’s already in it, I stand there, looking and feeling foolish. If somebody’s not in there and I make it in, I do so with the knowledge that a roomful of people is staring at the door, waiting for me to come out.
I have not yet had the experience of opening the door on someone who forgot to lock it, but the possibility is always there.
I am grateful for public restrooms — they add such dimension to my day.