Shall we sing the praises of public restrooms?
It’s an amenity that most consumers take for granted. It’s an amenity that most retailers and professionals grudgingly accept as a cost of doing business.
But I simply must salute those businesspeople who provide the miracle of indoor plumbing to their patrons.
When traveling or shopping, a restroom can be a lifesaver. We use the euphemism “when nature calls,” but nature doesn’t usually phone ahead. It shows up unannounced, kicking the front door in and toting two weeks’ worth of luggage.
I am not here to chastise those business owners who in their infinite wisdom decide not to go to the hassle of providing a restroom. Just know that the shoppers who make selections while squirming, fidgeting and jogging in place tend to overwhelm the Returns desk a few days later. (“Stains? What stains?”) I will not go as far as a theologian friend, who speculates that these businesspeople have a special corner reserved in hell. (“Don’t sweat the flames. Drink all the water you want. You just can’t get rid of it.”) Next up on the scale is the establishments with strings attached. I remember a vacation when the “Any port in a storm” mantra guided us as we parked at a rural crossroads market. Our mission was urgent enough that we were not deterred by the sternly worded “Restroom reserved for paying customers!” sign or the glowering clerk. (“You folks just passing through? Would you recognize a meth lab? Does your next of kin know you’re here?”) Predictably, this establishment did not provide paper seat liners. They would probably have clashed with the deepfried toilet paper, anyway.
Besides, anything short of an exorcist, a flame thrower and Anthony Fauci’s home phone number would have been inadequate.
On the next rung is the place where you have to wait in line and ask for the key. I can’t decide if this is more like Oliver Twist meekly asking for more gruel or your younger self asking Dad if you can take the training wheels off the bicycle.
As you do the walk of shame with the key, you are tempted to bluff to maintain your privacy. (“I donated my urethra and my gastrointestinal tract to African orphans, and I just need to use the mirror to check my worry lines.”) Even when no key ritual is required, you can rest assured that the person who beats you to a single-occupancy restroom is going to be the person with (a) a free hour of playtime on Candy Crush, a person with a distorted sense of time (“2023? Already? Get outta here!”) or a person with a bashful bladder. When dealing with the latter, you might yell through the door, “I can be your bladder’s wingman!” or “Let me buy your bladder a copy of ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People.’” The holy grail, of course, is a spacious, modern, palatial, multi-stall, graffiti- free restroom.
That has its own problems. Operating in “we’re not worthy” mode, you feel obligated to buy something, despite the inflated prices. And the guilt trip just accelerates.
“Take the cart. I need to call my mother. And send that waitress a bigger tip. And if your pocketknife is still sharp, maybe I could do something for Locks of Love! Wait…Mom said Nature kicked in her door. I hope the potty at the hardware store is unoccupied.”
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”