My mother was a fanatic about public toilets. When I was a little girl, she’d bring me in the stall, teach me to wad up toilet paper and wipe the seat. Then, she’d carefully lay strips of toilet paper to cover the seat. Finally, she’d instruct, “Never, never sit on a public toilet seat.” And she’d demonstrate “The Stance,” which consisted of balancing over the toilet in a sitting position without actually letting any of your flesh make contact with the toilet seat. But by this time, I’d have peed down my leg. And we’d go home.
That was a long time ago. I’ve had lots of experience with public toilets since then, but I’m still not particularly fond of public toilets, especially those with powerful, red-eye sensors. Those toilets know when you want them to flush. They are psychic toilets. But I always confuse their psychic ability by following my mother’s advice and assuming The Stance.
The Stance is excruciatingly difficult to maintain when one’s bladder is especially full. This is most likely to occur after watching a full-length feature film. During the movie pee, it is nearly impossible to hold The Stance. You know what I mean. You drink a two liter cup of Diet Coke, then sit still through a three-hour saga because, for God’s sake, even if you didn’t wipe or wash your hands in the bathroom, you’d still miss the pivotal part of the movie or the second scene, in which they flash the leading man’s naked derriere. So, you cross your legs and you hold it.
And you hold it until that first credit rolls and you sprint to the bathroom, about ready to explode all over your internal organs. And at the bathroom, you find a line of women that makes you think there’s a half-price sale on Mel Gibson’s underwear in there. So, you wait and smile politely at all the other ladies, also crossing their legs and smiling politely.
And you finally get closer.
You check for feet under the stall doors. Every one is occupied. You hope no one is doing frivolous things behind those stall doors, like blowing her nose or checking the contents of her wallet. Finally, a stall door opens and you dash, nearly knocking down the woman leaving the stall. You get in to find the door won’t latch. It doesn’t matter. You hang your handbag on the door hook, yank down your pants and assume The Stance. Relief. More relief. Then your thighs begin to shake. You’d love to sit down but you certainly hadn’t taken time to wipe the seat or lay toilet paper on it, so you hold The Stance as your thighs experience a quake that would register an eight on the Richter scale. To take your mind off it, you reach for the toilet paper. Might as well be ready when you are done. The toilet paper dispenser is empty.
Your thighs shake more. You remember the tiny napkin you wiped your fingers on after eating buttered popcorn. It would have to do. You crumble it in the puffiest way possible. It is still smaller than your thumbnail.
Someone pushes open your stall door because the latch doesn’t work and your pocketbook whams you in the head. “Occupied!” you scream as you reach out for the door, dropping your buttered popcorn napkin in a puddle and falling backward, directly onto the toilet seat. You get up quickly, but it’s too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with all the germs and life forms on the bare seat because YOU never laid down toilet paper, not that there was any, even if you had enough time to. And your mother would be utterly ashamed of you if she knew, because her bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, “You don’t know what kind of diseases you could get.”
And by this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused that it flushes, sending up a stream of water akin to a fountain and then it suddenly sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged to China.
At that point, you give up. You’re finished peeing. You’re soaked by the splashing water. You’re exhausted. You try to wipe with a Chicklet wrapper you found in your pocket, then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks. You can’t figure out how to operate the sinks with the automatic sensors, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past a line of women, still waiting, cross-legged and unable to smile politely at this point. One kind soul at the very end of the line points out that you are trailing a piece of toilet paper on your shoe as long as the Mississippi River. You yank the paper from your shoe, plunk it in the woman’s hand and say warmly, “Here. You might need this.”
At this time, you see your spouse, who has entered, used and exited his bathroom and read a copy of War and Peace while waiting for you. “What took you so long?” he asks, annoyed. This is when you kick him sharply in the shin and go home.
This is dedicated to all women everywhere who have ever had to deal with a public toilet. And it finally explains to all you men what takes us so long.via email, Wed, 11 Sep 2002 21:55:36 -0500