Author: Jacqi Kambish
Bathrooms are a necessary and useful thing. They serve their purpose and I am thankful that I have plumbing, especially on cold mornings in the winter when temperatures are sub-zero. I get that they are a modern convenience. I mean, thank the LORD we don’t have to use outhouses at the mall or grocery store. Could you imagine that scene? My nose wrinkles involuntarily just thinking about it.
While I am thankful for the modern convenience of plumbing, public bathrooms still incite a certain level of anxiety for me. Oh, I wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time I could use a public bathroom with little difficulty. I had a routine of use. It worked well. I checked for the cleanest looking stall. I check the toilet seat carefully for remnants of the last user and wiped them away when needed. (Side note: Seriously people! If you can’t get it IN the toilet at least do the next person a favor and wipe it away.) I always carefully placed the toilet seat covers perfectly upon the porcelain throne. I checked for toilet paper on the role before sitting. I was careful to touch as few surfaces as possible. I diligently washed my hands and used a paper towel to open the door before leaving the facilities. I had a perfect, streamlined routine with few upsets. Maybe it took me a bit longer than my friends to get through my routine but,generally speaking, going through the routine helped keep me sane in an environment I see as innately contaminated.
I guess I don’t need to mention that I am a bit of a germ-a-phobe. I try not to be over board about it. I bite my tongue and suppress my inward cringe when a friend laughingly explains that her child, who is now sharing the same bowl of pretzels with my child, is finally recovering from a nasty stomach bug. My inward panic button starts screaming’ “What the heck?” while the more subdued reasonable side of me realizes that it probably ran its course already and then mentions to her that maybe the kids should have their own bowl of snacks just in case and… a warning next time would be appreciated. When I get home, I scrub the children’s hand vigorously and then douse them with a heavy bath of essential oils…just to make me feel better.
But, back to bathrooms….
Oh the days…..The glorious days of using a public bathroom all by myself.
Fast forward 8 years:
I now have an 8 year old, a 5 year old and a 3 year old in tow and my safe routine is constantly being stomped on and thrown to the wind by small people who have no concept of germs and cleanliness. Take for example a recent and very real bathroom experience I recently had:
We are in a small dirty gas station bathroom with one stall. My oldest takes her turn first. “Make sure the seat is clean,” I state automatically. “It is,” comes her reply, much too quickly. I have my doubts but I am trying REALLY hard not to let my fear of public restrooms surface and take over.
My five year old is next. He bounces into the stall and slams the door shut before I can intervene. “I can do it!” he chirps a bit too positively.
Oh my stars!!
I can hear the toilet seat clank as he lifts it. Curses! I just KNOW that the rim is a festering bacterial feeding ground. Little micro somethings are eagerly waiting for an opportunity to attach themselves, like ticks, to my son.
It is my turn. I look all three of my kids in the eyes with piercing seriousness, “Do NOT touch ANYTHING.” I’m a bit stern. They smile and nod. I’ve had this conversation before…many times. They don’t care. They don’t care AT ALL! They are perfectly happy to lick the walls, hug the toilet seat, and play with the tampon box. My sanity is hanging by a thread now. My anxiety is creeping up as I click the stall door shut. I’m acutely listening to their every move and every word. “Just pee and get out.” I tell myself.
I can hear laughter and the hair rises on the back of my neck, “What are you doing?” I yell out. “I said don’t touch anything. Just stand there.” I can’t really see them. I don’t know what they are actually doing. I just yell it out because…somewhere in recesses of my heart…I know. I. Just. Know.
I walk out of the stall and take it all in. They aren’t looking at me. They are giggling and pointing at each other. My son is rolling across the putrid floor, my 3 year old daughter is kissing the floor length mirror with a look of delight. “Look Mommy, I’m giving me kisses.”
My oldest is doing God knows what, but her mouth is open and against the filthy wall. I can hear her laughing. My anxiety soars to Code Red. She looks at me and smiles. “I’m a Sucker Fish!”
She is laughing. I am not.
I am not sure who to address first. My mind is reeling. Dirty floor! Dirty mirror! Dirty wall!
“For land’s sakes!! What is WRONG with all of you?!”
I can’t stop myself, the words are flying out. I’m turning in circles and looking at each of them, unable to focus on just one child. Their giggles stop. They looked surprised.
Why do they look surprised? We had this conversation last week! Why on EARTH do they look surprised?
“What’s wrong Momma?” Bubba looks bewildered.
“The bathroom is dirty, everything is dirty! People POOP in here!” I say with exasperation.
They are just looking at me. I know they know I’m losing it. They are waiting for the insanity to run itself out. “Don’t touch anything and especially DO NOT put your MOUTH on anything in the bathroom. Do I really have to say, ‘Don’t lick anything?’ Do NOT Lick ANYTHING! And do NOT put your mouth on anything. Not the wall or the mirror or anything!?” In my hysterical state I am suddenly overcome with the humor of it all. I get an image in my head of them with their tongues frozen to the faucets like the kid, Flick, in The Christmas Story who got his tongue frozen to the pole. In that moment a woman walks into the bathroom. I know she heard my rant because she gives me a knowing look of sympathy. When our eyes meet a laugh begins to bubble up into our faces. I realize it is comical, at the same time I am horrified. I’m not sure which feeling is strongest but somehow the laugh finds its way to my lips. The Lady starts to laugh as well. I’m ushering the kids out as the laughter takes over. My son is looks at me and asks, “What’s so funny? What’s funny Momma?”
“Life.” I respond, “Life is funny.”