When author Cynthia Macgregor forwarded
this piece about why women take so much longer than men in the rest rooms,
it reminded me of a funny toilet incident from my childhood. Since I
decided to "let it all hang out" in this website, I'll fess up in
Public Toilets and Private Moments.
But first read...
My mother was a fanatic about public toilets. As a little girl, she'd bring me in the stall, teach me to wad up toilet paper
and wipe the seat. Then, she'd carefully lay strips of toilet paper to
cover the seat. Finally, she'd instruct, "Never, never sit on a public
And she'd demonstrate "The Stance," which consisted of balancing over the toilet
in a sitting position without actually letting any of your flesh make contact
with the toilet seat. But by this time, I'd have wet down my leg.
And we'd go home.
That was a long time ago. Even now in our more mature years, The Stance is
excruciatingly difficult to maintain when one's bladder is especially full.
When you have to "go" in a public bathroom, you find a line of women that makes
you think there's a half-price sale on Mel Gibson's underwear in there.
So, you wait and smile politely at all the other ladies, also crossing their
legs and smiling politely. And you finally get closer. You check for
feet under the stall doors. Every one is occupied.
Finally, a stall door opens and you dash, nearly knocking down the woman leaving
the stall. You get in to find the door won't latch. It doesn't
matter. You hang your purse on the door hook, yank down your pants and
assume "The Stance." Relief. More relief.
Then your thighs begin to shake. You'd love to sit down but you certainly
hadn't taken time to wipe the seat or lay toilet paper on it, so you hold The
Stance as your thighs experience a quake that would register an eight on the
To take your mind off it, you reach for the toilet paper. The toilet paper
dispenser is empty. Your thighs shake more. You remember the tiny
tissue that you blew your nose on that's in your purse. It would have to
do. You crumble it in the puffiest way possible. It is still smaller
than your thumbnail.
Someone pushes open your stall door because the latch doesn't work and your
purse whams you in the head. "Occupied!" you scream as you reach out for
the door, dropping your tissue in a puddle and falling backward, directly onto
the toilet seat.
You get up quickly, but it's too late. Your bare bottom has made contact
with all the germs and life forms on the bare seat because YOU never laid down
toilet paper, not that there was any, even if you had enough time to. And
your mother would be utterly ashamed of you if she knew, because her bare bottom
never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, "You don't know what kind
of diseases you could get."
And by this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused
that it flushes, sending up a stream of water akin to a fountain and then it
suddenly sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the toilet
paper dispenser for fear of being dragged to China. At that point, you
give up. You're soaked by the splashing water. You're exhausted.
You try to wipe with a Chiclet wrapper you found in your pocket, then slink out
inconspicuously to the sinks.
You can't figure out how to operate the sinks with the automatic sensors, so you
wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past a line of women,
still waiting, cross-legged and unable to smile politely at this point.
One kind soul at the very end of the line points out that you are trailing a
piece of toilet paper on your shoe as long as the Mississippi River!
You yank the paper from your shoe, plunk it in the woman's hand and say warmly,
"Here. You might need this."
At this time, you see your spouse, who has entered, used and exited his bathroom
and read a copy of War and Peace while waiting for you. "What took you so long?"
he asks, annoyed.
This is when you kick him sharply in the shin and go home.
This is dedicated to all women everywhere who have ever had to deal with a
public toilet. And it finally explains to all you men what takes us so long.