Contributor Lori Castner – The Restroom Challenge

Not a big challenge, but a small never-ending one: navigating public restrooms.

Being unable to read signs that would direct me to wear I want to go, I must ask some stranger in a quiet voice which I hope others don’t hear, “Where is the Women’s restroom?” I reveal such private information, “Hey, I gotta go.”

I enter this barren tiled vault filled with walls and turns; every public rest room has its own unique layout with distinctive and perplexing organization.

Where is the stall? Is it immediately to the right or left, or is it sequestered behind a partition? Does the door pull out or push in, and will it lock securely?

Once inside, I continue to explore. Is there a hook for my purse? Is there a little pull-down stand? Must I set my handbag on the rather grungy floor or keep it over my shoulder? Where are the seat covers, or are there any?

When I’m done, I face the biggest mystery of all–where is the flusher? Is it a lever on the side of the pipe (it always used to be there)? Is it a pedal on the floor and on which side of the facility? Is it a tiny button or rope on the wall? In airplane bathrooms, that button is virtually impossible to find. What if I can’t locate the darn thing? I can’t just leave! Oh, I’m in luck; I hear a swirl of water; this one flushes itself. In fact, it does so every time I move.

Next, I’m back in that barren room looking for the sink. It’s not that hard to find, only one turn around a wall and to the right. Fortunately, its faucet is in a standard location, above the water spout. But where is the soap; as usual I leave wet fingerprints on the mirror–which needed to be cleaned anyway. There is the dispenser, one foot above the sink two feet to the right. And then the paper towels; is the holder to the right or to the left? No the metal case is on the wall behind me. Well, at last I’m ready to return to the real world with its not so ordinary challenges.

Once after my sister handed me a paper towel in an airport restroom, she said, “You’d really like the old-fashioned public bathrooms that had an attendant to hand you things, but you’d have to tip her.” I’d gladly pay a pleasant lady who directed me to a sink, guided me to the soap, and offered me several paper towels.

And now where’s the exit to this maze? Oh, it’s where I came in.

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