Burning Restroom Questions

I visit public restrooms more often than I’d prefer.

My preference would be zero times per lifetime, of course, but as I drink 100+ ounces of water a day, that’s just not going to happen, unless I go all Boo Radley on you and never leave the house.

And if I did that my blog would flounder and die and I’d finally leave the house out of desperation to find anything to write about and I’d end up in a public restroom writing this post.

So why fight the pull. I go to a lot of public restrooms.

But every time I’m in one, I leave with SO MANY QUESTIONS.

1. Why do auto-flush toilets have to exist? Just to scare children out of their minds? To turn every bathroom visit into a sobfest? To make mothers have to play Twister to cover the sensor while holding their children onto the commode?

I get the idea – to cut down on the spread of germs – but I guarantee that I acquire more germs from the intricate balancing act I have to do to help my kid on the toilet while covering the sensor and keeping my toddler from licking the floor than I would if I just had to flush the dang toilet.

(For the record I have started making Ali go in a stall alone and get over herself about automatically flushing toilets. If they suck her down she won’t go far and I promise to come get her when I finish hoisting her brother onto the evil toilet next door.)

2. Why do automatic soap, sinks, and paper towel dispensers never sense me? I wave and I wave and I wave. I yell and I dance and I command them to put forth their product.

Yet I am completely invisible to them.

Then another woman walks up and they spit out soap before her hands even reach the spigot and she’s welcomed by pre-warmed flowing water at the sink. The paper towel dispensers bow before her, giving her a double portion of their papery goodness.

It’s as if they all know that I’m a middle child or something.

3. Speaking of paper towels, why do their dispensers have to come in so many forms? It’s like they can’t make up their mind what they want from me.

Wave in front of me!

Wave below me!

Push my button!

Pull my lever!

Use my crank on the side!

Desperately try to yank the sixteenth of an inch of paper towel shooting out the bottom because I refuse to work any other way!

…I spend 40% of my total time in public restrooms trying to figure out what parlor trick the paper towel dispenser requires of me.

4. Do the auto-deodorizers of the world have weekly planning meetings to strategize on how best to be aware of my presence so they can squirt directly above my head as I walk into a stall? Must I always smell like Kiwi-Coconut-Hell after leaving the restroom?


6. Is there a rule stating that restroom trash cans must be impossible to access without receiving more germs? I do NOT WANT to stick my hand down into your encrusted flappers in order to deposit my used paper towel that I so desperately fought to have.

7. Why can’t we scramble cell phone signals in public restrooms? I despise nothing more than having pee over my stall-neighbor’s mushy conversation with her boyfriend. If we can make a law against texting and driving, then surely we can make a law against calling and urinating. Call while you drive, text while you pee. Everyone’s happy.

8. Why is it always the nicest bathrooms that don’t have purse hooks? I appreciate your spacious 800 square foot stalls, thought-provoking artwork, and the potted plant watching me pee, but having a fern in the room cannot possibly make your floors clean enough for my purse butt to rest upon.

9. Why do automatic paper towel dispensers vary so vastly in the length of product they will supply? I punish short-changers by making them give me triple towel. I’m all for saving the ecosystem but I want to do it with dry hands.

10. And finally, the most puzzling public restroom question of all time. What kind of person uses the hand dryer when there are plenty of paper towels to be had?!

Psychopaths. That’s who.

24 thoughts on “Burning Questions of the Public Restroom.

  1. Only psychopaths use hand dryers. When I’m in a fast-food restaurant on a road trip and there are only hand dryers (the usual scenario), I grab extra TP to open the door after washing my hands and go out to the food area and get NAPKINS with which to dry my hands. TRY AS YOU MIGHT, McDONALDS, I will NOT be forced to use a hand dryer. I. WILL. NOT.

  2. I avoid the hand dryers whenever possible! Some of those things are so dang loud I feel like I’m going to have hearing damage. I’m sorry, environment, but I love me some paper towels!

  3. 1. Get a pad of sticky notes to cover the sensor
    2. They’re usually pointed down more than you think. Try putting your hands lower.
    3. Wouldn’t doubt if some companies have something patented, requiring other companies to do something different.
    7. FCC regulations. But it’s best to just yell something so the other side knows where they are. Or yell something so the other side thinks they’re in a worse place and has to say, “No no…I’m in a bathroom.”
    8. They’ve removed purse hooks from rest stops because thieves would know exactly where your purse would be. The thieves went back and installed the hooks on their own after they were removed.
    9. Sometimes, if you pull on it while it’s coming out, it’ll stop so you don’t need the whole length. This is probably patented, so it may not work on all systems.
    10. Hippies who think it saves the environment. And people who want to avoid the encrusted flappers.

  4. Omg, stop! I am in my cubicle at work dying!!!!! I’m trying hard not to bust out laughing!!! It’s like you’re in my head, voicing the very questions I ask whenever I have to use a public restroom! Speaking of purses, I cringe every time the lady in the next stall just plops her big ole purse down on the floor!!! Did she not read about how nasty those floors are? Watch out, purses could be the carriers for the plague!!!! And no, I hate automatic hand dryers, I’d rather wipe my hands dry on my jeans!!!

  5. Hand dryers always remind me of that scene in Monster, when Charlize Theron is drying her hair.

    WHY can’t people use a seat liner instead of squatting? I mean, our gender was not meant for aim, and the world will not end because your rump is one paper product layer away from the seat. Really, we are exposed to WAY more of your germs from the collateral damage than you would be by just sitting with proper precautions.

    I am in public restrooms far more often than I can enjoy any residential commodes, thanks to my current work. Most of those water closets are in airports or places even more open to the public.

    It’s like they say in conservation ads: We can all survive, if we just each do our part.

    1. Seat liners are useless. I did way more research on the subject than I ever wanted to do when I worked at an invention marketing company where one of the most popular invention categories was “things to protect us from yucky toilet seats”. It is almost impossible to catch any disease from urine, and the only way to get a disease from other bodily fluids IF they are on the seat is to have an open wound on your thigh, and even if there is a risk a layer of paper gives no protection as it immediately becomes saturated.

      So I just look for visible fluids on the seat, remove any such with toilet paper to avoid yucky wet feeling, and then sit on the seat. I never caught anything this way.

  6. Oh my gosh this reminded me. One of the female pastors at my church posted a picture on Facebook of the pathetic little bit of paper towel sticking out of the dispenser in the main restroom at the church with the status “Clearly a man designed this.”

    The following Sunday, the dispensers were suddenly much more generous. :-)

  7. Oh my gosh, yes!!! And why are some of those hand dryers so loud that it causes hearing loss? I wish they’d go back to the toilets with those big levers that you can flush with your foot. My little daughter is petrified of the sound the toilets make in public bathrooms and will not let me flush if she is in there (I make her stand outside the stall and I flush anyway. I am NOT one of those not-flushers!) She’s even more scared of the hand dryers, and I also would rather walk around with wet hands than use them. I detest them. Why not just use recycled paper towels in bathrooms? Seems to make sense to me. Oh, perhaps that’s why it’s not done more often.

  8. Well, question 5 answers question 1. But other than that, I totally agree.

    Also, I hate the fact that air dryers either do not work at all, or are so loud as to leave you deafened. Either way, I’d rather just dry my hands on my pants if there is no paper towel option.

    And the bathrooms that completely remove the paper towel dispensers drive me nuts. Try as hard as you might, you can not wash a child’s sticky face with an air dryer. A wet paper towel is manditory for de-stickifying.

    I however do not mind the bathrooms that go a nice middle ground – have the air dryers out and easily accessible, and hide the paper towel dispenser a little or put it in an awkward spot so it’s less convenient. That way you can save the environment since most people will go the easy option for air dryer, but those who really need a paper towel can still get one.

    And the bathrooms that have the purse hook in the middle of the door are nice – low enough to not be reachable by casual thieves, not likely to be confused for seats by small children like the pull down purse rests.

  9. And WHY OH WHY do they not provide a hook for the diaper bag next to the changing station?!? How on earth are you supposed to fit your child and your diaper bag on that little table which seems burdened by so much weight it’s about to collapse! Target is the only store I’ve found with the foresight to do this. CATCH ON everyone else! For the love of mom’s who’s diaper bags are juggled precariously while trying to wipe a poopy, squirmy bottom.

  10. Tiff’s then 2 year old figured that out pretty early. She hates those too, and has radar for them. She simply takes 1 or 2 sheets of toilet paper and covers the sensor. That’s all it takes!

  11. …. public washrooms where I live dont even come close to being this nice…
    – auto flushing toilets?? id settle for ones that had ANY sort of flushing. (and no they are not latrines, they are bonafide toilets, they just dont have any running water so …..)
    – people who dont flush…… wait a second.. there is no water, guess i cant blame them
    – toilet paper- bring your own- it is not provided (unless you want to pay at the rare station that offers this service)
    -purse hooks- if there was a door that would be handy!
    -paper towels- helpful only if one can actually wash your hands. but again… no water.
    -oh wait we found one with water… in a big barrell OUTSIDE the stall… with a margarine container… that im supposed to use to poor said barrell water in to the toilet to “flush” it…… ill leave you to imagine why you wouldnt put your purse down on that dripped/splashed upon floor….
    – seat covers- would be very cool and helpful too… if only people didnt keep stealing the seats. yes. really.
    on the other Hand… in South Africa in the malls and nice gas station stops they have AWESOME bathrooms… i mean it. clean, brightly lit, each stall is an ACTUAL ROOM… tiny, but its got floor to ceiling walls and an actual door.. meaning if you just cant wait to take that call then no one can really hear you… and if you are a shy pee-er you are in luck! The handryer’s work, there is usually paper towel available, and there is almost always a cleaning person around to help you out if something tragic occurs. :)
    so to sum it up. Mozambique- pee on the side of the road or hold it. (for a very long time) or invest in some heavy duty antibacterial stuff.
    South Africa- hold it til you go out shopping bc their bathrooms are quieter & nicer than yours!

  12. You know another thing that really annoys me when I find it in a public restroom? Regular hand soap pumps that should only be found in private bathrooms. Often you can tell they’ve been refilled over and over, and not with the original soap but with nasty orange Dial. The pumps usually have a few layers of grime built up underneath them, and are often sitting or lying in a big puddle of soapy water. I so hate to touch them!

  13. Public bathrooms with my autistic daughter became my own personal hell. I flinch in memory of meltdowns past when I’m alone and someone else uses the hand dryer. It was so bad at one point that I DIDN’T WASH. I just slapped some hand sanitizer on us both and ran for the hills. I won’t use a hand dryer now when I’m by myself in case there are any people with autism in the vicinity. It was THAT BAD. I hate everything about automated bathrooms. And who can ever find those tiny post its in their bag?!

    I did not intend to go on that long, but wow, my hatred of public baths runs deep!!

  14. OMG the cell phone thing drives me NUTS. My pee once had the honor of its own international broadcast when three of my co-workers had a speakerphone conversation with a fourth coworker–and HER EXTENDED FAMILY–in TURKEY. They felt the need to do this in the bathroom, even though our floor has two conference rooms. I was floored.

    Re: #1–I hate those things too, because I don’t want to be sprayed all over my backside with pee water, even if it is my own. My super-smart husband informed me that you can hang a few squares of TP over the sensor, complete your business, then just rip it off at the last minute before you leave the stall. Works every time.

  15. I completely agree! The automating of restrooms drives me nuts. Luckily, although I have to use a public restroom at work and it often has something in need of repair, at least nothing in it is automated–except the air freshener, which is usually empty and therefore not poofing.

    I must say, though, I encounter fewer problems with #5 than with truly puzzling hygiene hazards: How did you get poop up THERE? Why, when the stall wastebasket is empty and the toilet flushes well, would anyone place a used tampon on the back of the toilet? And I used to wonder why sink counters were often so very wet with such an odd distribution of puddles, until I was in a restroom with the sign, “Do not wash hair or feet in sinks.”

  16. So, in the bathroom I use at work, there are 3 stalls. The far stall is the handicapped stall. The first stall has WAY too big of a space between the wall and the door and I feel like people can totally watch you pee. The middle stall’s sensor is possessed and flushes repeatedlyWHILE YOU’RE SITTING ON IT! What am I supposed to do?! Granted, being a nurse and a mother, I have a large bladder, but still…I cannot go an entire 12 hour shift without peeing! Sheesh!

  17. I agree the hand dryers have gotten too loud and the studies showing paper towels are more hygenic are compelling, but hand dryers do have their place. I have been trapped with small potty-training child who had an “accident” before (not one of my kids, either!) No spare clothes, no way or desire to get home so I hand washed and dried her clothes… That’s not something you can do with paper towels!! (And around here the paper towels often run out!) so I think they are a good addition but should be redesigned to be quiet!

    Hand dryers are cheaper as well – most of the automated things are supposed to save money. They sell them to the users as being more hygenic (and some really are!) but the reason they get installed is to lower operating costs. Trouble is that often they go too far which makes people use more than they would otherwise. I’m pretty convinced that Really cheap toilet paper isn’t saving any money because everyone uses three times as much.

    I hate scented products in the bathroom. They trigger my asthma. AndI usually skip the soap as I never know what is in it (allergies!) and have no desire to check whether the particular product will give hives.

  18. Hey, take it as a compliment! Just ration that the sensors can’t detect you because you are so petite and thin and wee. Just a wisp of a person. LOL Just say everyone else has giant beefcake hands that can’t help but be detected!

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