My job sends me on the road quite a bit. During a typical week I will average roughly 500 miles. That seems like a lot. Maybe to some it isn’t. I don’t mind it – audiobooks have become my new BFF and I’ve gotten a lot of “reading” done since I took this position. Can you consider an audiobook something you have “read”? I often wonder that. Anyway, I digress. This post has nothing to do with audiobooks.
This summer I’ve been splitting my time between being on the road and working out of the Milford office. My car thanks me. On those days my commute is a sweet 15 minutes at most. It’s a serene drive down 36 and into town. I wave at the group of old men clustered outside Dolce every morning. They are adorable. Again, I digress. This post has nothing to do with adorable old men outside of coffee shops.
Back in 2001-2002, every radio station known to man was playing Counting Crow’s version of “Big Yellow Taxi”. I think they even collaborated with Vanessa Carlton and her I’m-trying-way-too-hard-voice. (Why you gotta mess with Joni Mitchell?) I hated the song. And yet, I still find myself humming parts of it to this day. “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone…”
Do you wonder yet where I’m going with this? I have a point. I promise.
When your car is your office you begin to realize the little things you took for granted: Coworkers to chat with. The freedom to stand and stretch at will. Easy access to drinking water that hasn’t potentially reached the boiling point while sitting in the middle console. But most of all . . . Bathrooms.
Finding a public restroom is like embarking on a treasure hunt. You plot your course, stay alert for dangerous perils (New Jersey drivers), and pray earnestly that fortune smiles upon you and your quest. It’s an especially daunting pursuit when you’re in the bowels of Wilmington. (See what I did there?)
In every other city/town/suburb that has a Wawa, there is always a public restroom. Except Wilmington. Their Wawa’s do not have public restrooms. Granted, it is very likely that I keep stumbling across the same two or three so I shouldn’t speak for Wilmington Wawas in general. But it makes me physically angry when I see the familiar red letters, only to be greeted by a postage-stamp sized building with one cash register and one grumpy attendant who tells me (probably for the fifteenth time that day) that there are no public restrooms.
All that to say, this is why I find myself singing “Big Yellow Taxi”; I didn’t know that being literally five steps from the bathroom door was something I would miss. It’s true. I didn’t know what I had ‘til it was gone.
While finding a public restroom is like embarking on a treasure hunt, the end result is the real treat. (You’re reading this so you can’t hear the tone of my voice when I say that. It was sarcastic, if that helps.) You suffered through traffic jams and missed exits only to be disappointed. Never mind the usual nose-crinkling aspects of communal toilets. Those are easy fixes that can be treated with a good dose of Clorox and a roll of Brawny.
Let’s all just agree that the ideal public restroom does not exist. Some are better than others, but 95% of them have at least one major flaw. And as I consider myself somewhat of a coinsurer on the matter (a title I’m super proud of) I thought I would list my findings here:
1. Cracks. No, not those. It’s not that kind of Potty Humor. What other door in the world has such a gaping space between it and the wall? Front doors, cabinet doors, bedroom doors, locker doors, car doors… They all manage to avoid the dreaded “peep crack”. But a bathroom stall door? The one place where you want all the privacy that is humanly possible? I don’t understand.
2. Center, please. I want to meet the shmo who can’t install a toilet in the center of the stall. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I would just prefer my face not be smashed up against one side while there’s room for a small family to move in on the other.
3. It’s all in the door. I understand it’s safer for bathroom stall doors to open in, not out. But it’s maddening and difficult to maneuver yourself, your purse, and whatever else you’ve got along (I imagine it’s a real pain in the you-know-what with kids), when the door opens inward. There have been many times when I’ve nearly lost an arm trying to avoid the dreaded back-of-leg-to-toilet-contact, only to get tangled up in the bags hanging from the hook as I try to escape. It’s like my own personal Shawshank, without the Morgan Freeman narration. That would be just weird.
4. Automatic TP. I know the big debate on Facebook and in homes around the world is which direction toilet paper should roll. Over? Under? Who cares? I’m just concerned that it’s there. The new thing now is automatic tp dispensers. Just like its paper towel counterpart, you wave your hand under the sensor and it hums out some squares. How many? Approximately two. Sure, it’s a great way to keep things sanitary and control the amount of bath tissue that people waste. But they are noisy. And a giveaway. If you hear the person next to you triggering the automatic tp one too many times, you might not want to linger much longer.
5. Direction is everything. Single stall bathrooms can be a real joy. Total privacy, no peep cracks here. Except when the toilet is directly facing the door. And that door opens up into a busy waiting room or foyer or office space. Then it’s just awkward. And slightly terrifying. Did I lock the door properly? What if I didn’t pull the door shut tight? Oh my gosh, how many people are standing just outside that door?! At this point you’re pretty much helpless and you pray with all your might you get out of there with your dignity intact.
I now feel like I need to create some sort of task force to deal with this problem. Maybe I could pitch a new reality/makeover show to TLC or HGTV. “Big Yellow Taxi” could be playing during the opening credits. And Morgan Freeman could narrate. Nothing weird about that at all.