… On Public Restrooms

public-toilet-graph

This blog has served a number of purposes. And while I’d like to think at times it’s been a vehicle to bring us all up to speed on certain topics, there are occasions when in order to do so it’s necessary that I borderline debase myself. Sometimes there’s not even a border. This could be one of those times. But I’ll write on in the name of the better good, whatever the hell that means.

Ahem.

Going to the bathroom in public is a kind of adventure sport. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, nor evidently the faint of fart.  I really don’t think that there is anyone in the world who has not had a scene of absurdity play out on these battlegrounds and in my limited years I’ve seen a lot. Now I’ve made a lot of friends in bathrooms, usually inadvertently. There are some great people there, and if you think about it there’s a sense of solidarity in sharing a common goal. But there are moments I wish I could take back. Moments when selfishness and backstabbing got the best of people. Fights in the neighboring stalls. Roundhouse kicks disturbing a lock’s structural integrity. It can be a war zone. Now some people are great at not going to the bathroom in public. To you I blatantly say what the hell. I never understood how that was a possible or desirable option. But through the good and the bad, one thing remains true- while in my soul I hope that these are common themes that we can share and commiserate over, chances are they’re not but at the end of the day they make for a great story. So without further ado, some of my favorite moments when someone else’s human decency was checked at the door, and I lived to tell about it.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH

You can’t pee for free and everybody pays a price. I learned this in my formative years of high school when I transferred to an all catholic, uniform-wearing scholastic institution. Making no claims to be so now, I was most definitely not “cool” in high school. I couldn’t remember any catholic trivia, my “marriage” partner in our catholic lifestyles class was curiously absent for most of the year, I didn’t roll my skirt and most importantly for this story, I was a non-smoker.

I’ll elaborate using my TV alter ego Stephanie Tanner as a visual aid.
ST1
Now while I didn’t have huge aspirations to change any of the above, only one had any effect on my abilities to go to the bathroom.

0d68584a2ee5492f52876886e7c21c24Everyday at lunch since I was little I would use that time to go to the bathroom during the school day. So I didn’t understand why when I got to high school it should be any different. The problem was, the bathroom nearest the cafeteria was an all out smokers’ lounge, and those who didn’t want ash-ass need not apply.

Walking in the first day was nothing I’d ever seen or heard. I was surrounded by a cacophony of Pittsburgh accents, burps, and the biggestST2 cloud of smoke I’d ever seen that wasn’t a five alarm fire. The most ridiculous element though of this entire thing was that our gym teacher, that beacon of health, would stand outside of the door to the bathroom with a visible billow of smoke coming out of it and tell everyone to hurry up so the next group could go. I opened up the stall door to find a decorative garland of ash covering the toilet seat, and a butt in the bowl. But perhaps worst of all, there was also the not at all faint cover up scent of Cucumber Melon Body Splash.718P+wr588L._SX355_ Oh Cucumber Melon. Let me say right now that I still can’t smell Cucumber Melon without gagging. I hate – and I use the word hate- that smell and its permanent association with cancer-causing substances. Bath and Body Works if you’re reading this, I do love Winter Candy Apple.

The situation became a running gag to the point where some of us would bring in makeup brushes to wipe the ash off of the seat, since it didn’t seem to bother the powers that be. And then one day, as all great things start, one of us lost our composure. And that one of us was Sister A. I had to use the restroom and my friend “Bess” hadn’t finished her can of Dr. Pepper yet, so we weren’t allowed to leave the cafeteria. However reaching my own personal limit of oppression, I decided that since other girls were allowed to give us cancer we may as well be allowed to give it to ourselves. So I told Bess that by the power no one had given me, she should be able to take that can into the can or what world were we living in?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t our gym teacher on bathroom duty but rather the head nun, and to this day I feel that was premeditated. Someone had called in the Fuzz. The stage was set for a Smoke Ring Sting, and it seemed that anyone with a bladder was a target. We walked in and literally didn’t know what hit us. Probably a pack of cigarettes. But before anyone could say anything, or we realized we had walked smack into a bust, Sister A had said it all- “This one’s drinking! Taker in!” Suddenly it was as if prohibition but with soda had become not only an infraction but illegal, and also as if we were in a Western. With stinging eyes, Bess quickly swigged her last and the two of us were slapped with detention. I think for basically being in the bathroom. While I got detention in general for so many innocuous moments that I actually don’t remember them all, to the best of my knowledge that was the day Bess and I were taken away to lick envelopes for two and a half hours. And let me tell you, not ONE of the smokers was there to join us. The only thing that would have made it worse was if someone had sprayed the envelopes with Cucumber Melon.


THE WAYLAYED BEIGNET BIDET

2006_11_cafe_du_monde_beignetsIf you’ve ever been to New Orleans or have ever had a drink of coffee, you may have heard of Café Du Monde. The café is a pioneer in coffee trends as well as the official state donut, the Beignet- a wonderful, fluffy dough mound covered in a generous portion of powdered sugar. The location is a hot place to be, and is visited by countless tourists including various celebrities. What you may not know is that you should never go to the bathroom there if at all possible.

In town for a shoot, my friends and I went to Café Du Monde to grab some coffee and breakfast while trying to somewhat take it easy in the Big Easy (see what I did there?).

I had to go to the bathroom or why would we be telling this story? Anyways, I asked our lovely waitress where the bathroom was, and was informed (everyone is so pleasant there) that is was “Behind the kitchen, sugar.” So that’s where I headed. I noticed that as I went back, I passed the line of beignet makers and the volume increased the further back I went. This is key information people, let me give you that hint.

The bathroom door shuts and I remember thinking “Good thing it’s so noisy outside, if somebody didn’t feel good no one would hear anything.”

No one would hear anything.

I finish what I have to do and then go to unlock the door. And it wouldn’t unlock. It’s bolted shut. The walls are literally a thick metal, and there’s chaos outside and I’m locked in a one-stall bathroom of Café Du Monde. I could hear dialogues from the kitchen staff so surely they could also hear me? Wasn’t that how science worked?

“Hello?! I’m locked in the bathroom! Help! I’m in the bathroom!”Image result for cafe du monde

Not one conversation outside slowed. This was going to take Jungle Squad skills, of which I have a limited arsenal. The bolt was stuck, so I had to get some sort of leverage. With what? There was a paper towel dispenser and a sink.

What horrible irony, I thought. To die mere feet from beignets. But focus!

I thought really hard. If I lift my leg in the air, I may be able to balance against the sink and shove the bolt in the opposite direction with my rear…

Unfortunately the sink didn’t have the amount of resistance I was looking for, or I substantially underestimated my own strength (unlikely) and it began to move from beneath my rear end. I was running through my arsenal of MacGyver tools and fast. Well, maybe I’m heavy enough that somehow I can get myself to stand on the doorknob and something will happen? 

This was an actual thought I had.

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Was I wearing any bobby pins? What would I even do with them? Throw them under the door? There wasn’t even a lock to pick, as if suburban Stobbe had ever picked a legit lock anyways.

I stepped back and tried to gauge the distance between the opposite wall and the other side of the bolt. How long was my leg? How tall was I? What was my wingspan? It was getting to be so long in isolation I was losing my identity.

This was hopeless.

Just then, and I’m not kidding, someone angel knocked on the door. I thought? Was I hallucinating? How long had I been in here?

“Oh my god! Help me open the door!” I yelled. The customer then said, and I’ll never forget it-

“Ok.”

So as this woman whose face I can’t remember but whose sainthood I’ll never forget turns the knob from the outside I push the bolt with every finger and elbow-ish muscle I’ve got and it finally creaks open. I’m literally sweating but thank her profusely and tried to warn her before… she shuts the door.

Unfortunately, the person I did forget to warn was my friend Manuelle who subsequently had to catapault her own body and battering ram the door down after a running start. Manuelle is on the Jungle Squad. But there’s a part of me that thinks this is actually how the people making the beignets entertain themselves sometimes- they hear all but it’s some kind of tough love to burn off all the beignet dough you’ve ingested through sweat and fear.

ONE KICK TO RULE THEM ALL

You know those friends you have that you would do anything with? Well would you do anything for them? Anything you say? Well if you’re not sure, put yourself in this position.

I went shopping with my buddy from forever, who we’ll call A.C. (Slater if you want). A.C. and I were at the mall food court and about to head home for the day, when we decided we should just go to the bathroom. Now, mall bathrooms are their own breed. They are different than most bathrooms in that many people don’t use them to take a break and pamper themselves, they’d rather be shopping. So it’s mostly an in then out experience.

Unless you’re us.

You know those bathroom units that actually hang from the ceiling? That have no floor bearings and are structurally hanging from the top? It was one of those situations and three stalls. I took the farthest stall, and didn’t turn around to see which stall A.C. had taken. But just as I sat down, the door to the bathroom flew open and two women came in looking for trouble. If you don’t know what trouble looks like, hang out in any ladies room for a bit. When it became clear to them that it was a fairly mellow scene, I guess it was time to improvise.

“Hey Mabel, how much would you pay me to kick in this door?”

Ok. Now. Several thoughts went through my mind very quickly:

1) Is “This door” MY door? Oh my god, why? I can’t reach the door to stop it! Why do I still not know how long my leg is???
2) Is “This door” A.C.’s door? Oh my god, what can I do? Will I laugh?
3) Is “This Door” the remaining empty stall, of which I’m not sure which one that is and anyways I’m afraid to move.

Then I heard the absolutely unhelpful “”Is someone in there? I don’t think someone’s in there. Can you see their feet?”

Oh my god, stretch out your arms and legs, Ingrid! I was literally reaching as far forward as I possibly could while also trying not to fall off and also trying to potentially hold one leg up to stop the door from being kicked in. But I still somehow wanted them to see a foot and know I was there! It was 4 x 5ft chaos.

What seemed like generations passed. History became legend. Legend became myth. I thought I heard A.C. try to pee more enthusiastically- perhaps this was a last ditch tactic to establish a humanity behind the stall. Then, suddenly, in a move that rivaled the train station scene in Witness, this ass-hat literally roundhouse kicks the entire stall structure and almost rips it from the ceiling. Like this thing is jangling and we’re peeing as fast as we can under extreme duress.Related image

For a good two seconds I thought she had kicked in A.C.’s bathroom stall door. And this is what a terrible friend I am, I laughed. I am not on any kind of friend Jungle Squad, it’s true. I was laughing really hard. I then heard the offenders utter “Ugh, it’s clogged, we can’t use it,” and then leave. I came out of my stall to find A. C. at the sink.

“Oh my god, I thought they busted in your door!”
“What? No, but who fucking roundhouse kicks a stall?”
“Oh man, I thought they’d kicked in your door!”
“You already said that! Was that why you were laughing?? Would you have even helped me?!”

I couldn’t tell if it was worse to say yes or no. But despite my wavering emergency situation credibility somehow we’re still friends. I think when you endure moments of fear like that, enduring friendship is inevitably forged.

There was a myriad of other tales to tell: like the time there was Trouble A Bruin at the hockey game and a fight broke out around my stall between a Penguin and Bruins fan in the women’s room. The time a child held the single curtain I had to maintain any integrity at a county fair in front of the line of spectators waiting to see the pig races. The time my stall neighbor wouldn’t stop trying to start a conversation about her boyfriend and waving from beneath the dividing wall. The time I fell over in the bathtub and was half in and half out of a tub, draped in a collapsed shower curtain when my entire family ran in to help my naked self… An incident that came to be known as Sprawled Naked in the Bathtub and inspire mixtapes. The list is endless, and frankly if you want legendary moments you should actually be talking to my mother.

But the bottom line (<– pun) is this:

Be on your guard…
There are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world…

Just kidding. Well, half kidding. Do look both ways and avoid dead bolts. To quote Bette Davis, public restrooms ain’t no place for sissies.

 

 

 

 

 

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