WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BATHROOM HUMOUR. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ ABOUT THIS TOPIC, YOU BEST, UH, SCAT.
This morning, on my daily Reddit-crawl, I came across this hypothetical question:
"What would happen if we no longer segregated our public bathrooms by gender?"
It brought back a slew of memories. Some of those memories made off with my appetite.
The men's -- no, ladies'-- restroom at MacGuire's Irish Pub, Destin, FL
I actually have a little bit of experience with non-segregated public bathrooms. An old girlfriend went to Humber College, and some of their dorm floors were co-ed. There was one bathroom with attached shower room per floor, and men were instructed to hang a "MALE PRESENT" hall-pass type-thing on the shower room door as necessary. The girls took great pleasure in drawing elaborate genitalia, bringing a whole new meaning to "stick-figure".
This was 1990. I'm pleasantly surprised to find they have the same system today. I was naive enough back then to never even consider how easily a male might abuse that system...but evidently there hasn't been much of that. That's only as it should be and I certainly shouldn't be applauding civil behaviour...and yet I almost feel I have to.
That was my first exposure to the forbidden female zone. It was illuminating. For instance, I finally learned what it was women do in bathrooms, and why it requires so many of them to do it.
They have parties.
No, seriously, men, I know this is impossible to believe, but they actually talk to each other in there. I've heard it from my concealed place behind the stall door. It's a regular convention. They talk about men, they talk about women, they talk about anything, and they laugh with and at each other, as if they're not in a public bathroom at all.
This is so radically different from anything a man might do in a bathroom that it actually boggled my mind. Still does, on some level. You see, women and men approach public restrooms from precisely opposite angles.
For a man, the public toilet is a place to get into, do your business in, and get out of. This is to be done without saying a word to anyone, and ideally without looking at anyone. There is a complicated code of conduct at urinals --everybody, especially women, go try this. I got all six questions right without hesitation, and nobody ever actually told me how this works. It's just something that even the most unobservant man in the world (me) picks up on by osmosis.
So yes: get in, do what you came to do, and get the hell out. But because you are a man, by all means take pleasure in what you came to do. Your vocal cords must not emit a noise, but any other noise is fair game. If you can urinate so as to actually carve porcelain, by all means, do it. If you produce a sound, mid-evacuation, that has everyone in the room ducking and running for cover, you can step out of that stall and that bathroom with your head held high. And if your noxious cloud actually causes people to choke, congratulations, you have won the washroom that day.
(This is, in fact, one of the few times you can break the code. I have cheered and been cheered at, been slow-clapped, and called across four stalls, JESUS, BUDDY, DID IT SMELL LIKE THAT WHEN YOU ATE IT?!")
Another note: if you produce something with fartistic appeal--if your stool resembles an actual stool, or a felled tree--you may leave it there for posteriority. This is Alpha Male behaviour: I DID THAT. ME. NEVER MIND THAT YOU DON'T KNOW WHO I AM, LOOK UPON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND I BET YOU CAN'T TOP THIS!
(Being unapologetically beta, you'll be happy to know I do not engage in this behaviour myself.)
Women, by contrast, would prefer to forget there are toilets in that room at all. If they must be used--and I know more than one woman would prefer to soil herself--the bathroom must be empty. Better yet, the building must be empty, so that nobody can come in and be able to tie a face to the ass that released that stench. This is incompatible with the bathroom party, of course: the only plausible explanation is that such parties are, by unspoken consent, urination events only. (I do not know this for certain. Further research is impossible at this time.)
Even given an empty bathroom, a woman in an emergency situation has mastered seventy-eight different ways to suppress the body noises she makes. A man would never think to do this: he's in a shitter, he's shitting, this is a natural state. But women have been taught from earliest childhood to be delicate and genteel, and so they are completely bewildered and nonplussed when, upon releasing the Kraken, said Kraken chances to grunt, growl, roar, or even splash. No, a woman must cut the water like an Olympic diver or employ noise-cancelling countermeasures to suit.
Going to the bathroom is a complicated ritual for most women, involving multiple layers of T.P. wrapping the toilet seat with more care than I wrap Christmas presents. You need your hand sanitizer and some sort of air spray and heaven only knows what else...I'd never get it done in time. You women must have sphincters like steel traps. That said, I understand why it's such an ordeal. Oh, you bet, I understand.
I worked Close-Open at McDonald's for a year, not two miles from where I'm currently sitting. Close-Open is an overnight janitorial shift, and it was the same routine each night. I normally started with the public restrooms, so as to make sure nobody was left in there at closing, and ended at open with the staff restrooms as the sun came up. And so I got an up-close and personal look at something I'd only suspected, something women will not admit on pain of torture, to wit:
Women are much, MUCH filthier, on average, than men can even imagine being.
You read that right. The same woman who chastises her husband for leaving his socks balled up at the foot of the bed or letting the dirty dishes pile up for a day has probably, at some point in her life, perpetrated a horror in a public bathroom that some sad sack like me has had to clean up.
It's incredible. With certain memorable exceptions, the worst you'll find in a men's room is a puddle of urine on the floor. I will now explain to the women--since I have broken the secret of their bathroom behaviour to men--just why it is that your man has such trouble shooting where he's pointing.
I ask you to conduct an experiment. For this experiment you need chalk and a working garden hose.
Go outside to within reach of the garden hose faucet.
Draw a chalk circle on the ground, the diameter of which should be no bigger than that of your toilet.
Take the hose and grasp it at waist level, twelve inches...no, eight inches....okay, damnit, FIVE inches (sigh) from the aperture where the water will be shooting out.
Turn on the tap, being sure to aim the hose at your chalk toilet circle.
Ten bucks says the first spurt will miss your circle entirely. Even if it doesn't, see what happens if you wriggle the hose to simulate the fabled 'piss-shiver"...or if you place a finger over the stream to imitate the mysterious "split-piss", when you can be shooting urine out in three directions at once. I *defy* you to hit that chalk hole.
And that's why men miss.
But that pales into insignificance compared to what goes on next door.
Women are disgusting. Rare is the stall that doesn't have toilet paper all over the floor, often suspiciously wet and discoloured. Toilet paper, big deal. I also found all manner of feminine un-hygiene products scattered hither and yon, not to mention an astonishing amount of fecal matter.
Seriously, men. They criticize you for missing when you pee. They miss when they poop. Infinitely worse.
I think I've figured this out. I think that this happens when women don't have time to ritualistically wrap, when their evacuation is well underway as they enter the room. They've been taught to on no account touch the raw abattoir of the toilet seat--and so they...hover.
Repeat garden hose experiment, only with beef stew instead of water.
Incidentally, men touch the toilet seat. We don't care. We won't go into a recently vacated stall lest we feel the last person's butt-warmth--some things are too gross even for us--but touching the toilet seat? No problem. This explains why women generally outlive men.
Even outside the stalls, the dirtiness continues. I'd get to the staff bathroom in the morning and again, the worst I'd find in the mens' would be a puddle of water on the counter. Women--they were in the habit of blotting their lipstick on the mirror. Do you know how hard it is to get lipstick off glass?
There'd be other bits of female flotsam and jetsam everywhere. No idea why this should be: there were garbage cans in these bathrooms. But there you have it.
IF YOU'VE STUCK WITH ME THIS FAR, THIS IS WHERE YOU WANT TO CONSIDER BUGGING OUT, OR AT LEAST SKIPPING DOWN TO THE NEXT JUMP AFTER THIS ONE.
DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU. WHAT I'M ABOUT TO RELATE WON ME THE COVETED "GROSS-OUT OF THE MONTH" AWARD IN THE ALT.GROSS USENET NEWSGROUP IN 1992.
The worst thing I ever had to deal with in a bathroom happened three times. All at McDonald's, on regular lot and lobby shifts. All in -- surprise! -- men's restrooms.
A manager would come up to me and say, "hey, Ken!" in this jocular tone that put me instantly on alert.
"You wanna clean the men's head? There's a free meal in it for you."
(This was back before the McGold card for employees, when you were entitled to one free meal and no more per shift. I worked at McD's for years and never got sick of the food, so a free meal was a temptation. Still, they didn't hand out free meals for just anything.)
"Uh, sure, okay." Dear God, what have I gotten myself into?
I'd have a premonition of what I was about to see as the door opened, and sure enough, there it would be: somebody had taken a shit (or rather, left a shit) in the urinal.
An ancient Merle Travis song would start up in my head as I regarded the snake regarding me. A smell almost, but not entirely unlike warm, freshly baked bread would tickle my nostrils and I would back away slowly, then run. I was not equipped for this.
I had to go get equipped for this. That meant salad gloves. Transparent salad gloves. VERY THIN transparent salad gloves.
Thus equipped, I would steel myself and return to the scene of the crime, thinking I should have held out for two free meals for this.
I could still feel residual heat baking through the gloves as I grasped the slinky, faintly steaming stool and commenced to wrestle it into a garbage bag. It would, inevitably, split and splat to the floor, narrowly missing my shoes and forcing me into a momentary Riverdance impression...and then I'd have to bend down and do it all over again. Make that three free meals.
My mind would retreat into itself as I worked, trying desperately to ignore the aroma. I'd replay the words of that bastard manager in my head, suddenly spotting the ambiguity in them:
Want to clean the men's head? There's a free meal in it for you...
...and from that moment on it was a wrestling match with my gorge. Which I would win by sheer force of will, coupled with the realization that if I puked, I'd just have to clean that up, too.
OKAY, THAT'S OVER, YOU CAN BREATHE AGAIN.
I hate to quote Heinlein again so quickly, but this one is apropos. Signs of the decline of civilization, according to Heinlein in To Sail Beyond The Sunset (1988) include:
"too many lawyers, family decay, high taxes, decline in rational thinking, entertainers and high-paid athletes mistaken for important leaders of public opinion, strikes by public officials, peer-group promotion in public schools, declining literacy, and, last but not least, dirty public restrooms (a sign of declining courtesy and polite consideration for others)."
Declining courtesy and polite consideration for others. I see it everywhere, not just in restrooms. People feel entitled to be filthy: "it's not my job" to clean things up. I'm pacifist by nature and I have to refrain from throat-punching these people. Rudeness and self-centeredness are just more proof I'm living through Heinlein's Crazy Years. Only by now I'm supposed to have some means of migrating off-planet and getting away from them. Even a mind as brilliant as his could never have conceived that, having gone to the Moon and built an orbiting space station, the human race would abruptly lose interest.
It's a cultural thing. Did you know that in Japan, most of the schools do not employ custodial staff? The students take care of all that. And they do it without thinking about it, and certainly without grumbling about it--cleaning detail is an excuse to be out of the classroom, so it's actually a good time.
Can you imagine what would happen here without janitors in the schools? Not to mention everywhere else?
It comes down to a lack of empathy. I'm sorry to say it -- because I say it so often -- but a giant infusion of empathy would solve so much. Nobody seems to stop to think that anything they dirty or destroy has to be cleaned or fixed...and if they do think that, they certainly don't put themselves into the shoes or heads of the people who do the cleaning and fixing. I don't know why this value of empathy is not part of the core curriculum in schools: it's easily the most important socialization tool we have.
If you make a mess, people...clean it up. That's something we were supposedly taught in KINDERGARTEN.