The bathroom on our floor is non-existent. That’s because the office of Web Services & Digital Marketing is located in what used to be part of the attic in our 1955 era building. We have neither elevator nor water.
We do have a half-height metal door that we can kick open and go out onto the black rubber mat-coated roof. A great view of the campus for sure. We watched the eclipse out there in our sun-proof cardboard glasses back in 2014. In case we have a fire that prevents us from escaping down the 20 red-carpeted stairs to the third floor, we have a shiny and crazy heavy metal fire ladder that unrolls to a height of four stories. Which is great, except that part of the building covered by the black rubber mat is really only two stories. Plus the hooks at the top of the ladder don’t really fit over the top of the wall.
But I digress.
Mid-Century Modern isn’t Always Adorable
When our baser bodily functions must be satisfied, the three of us must travel down those stairs to the hall, my two male colleagues turning to the left and I to the right. For some reason the builders were concerned about separating the men’s and women’s restrooms as far apart as possible.
Now I’ve heard some wild stories about the men’s restroom from my colleagues. Mysterious concreted-in holes where urinals used to be, faucets spewing black liquid into the sink, horrid smells emanating from don’t-think-of-where. Sounds like it’s barely a step above an outhouse. Not that I have ever made personal acquaintance with either an outhouse (despite living my entire life in Alabama) or the men’s restroom.
The women’s restroom is an honest-to-goodness example of mid-century modern — as it really was. Not the cute and kitschy versions at adorable web stores. The tiles on the floor form a three-by-three pattern of dusty pink squares with an off-white square in the center. These tiles are accented by black grout. I don’t think the color is intentional and may have once been white.
In contrast to the men’s ever-decreasing facilities, we women have the luxury of 4 toilet stalls, sturdy metal painted a sort of dingy white. Around the scraped door edges you can see the reddish-brown paint beneath.
The walls are shiny gray ceramic tile up to about chest height, then white cinder block up to the ceiling. The one fluorescent light in the ceiling illuminates the room with the ever-attractive dimness of late twilight. A mirror runs with width of the wall across from the stalls, with three white porcelain sinks. Hot water is provided by a little heater thingy that makes a loud click when you turn the hot water knob and works most of the time.
There’s also a full length mirror beside the window at the far end of the sinks, and a scraped metal divider on the close end. An ancient padded straight-back metal chair and a particle-board two-shelf cabinet containing tampons round out the room’s furnishings.
Please Don’t Chat on the Toilet
I don’t know how it is where you work, but the bathroom tends to have more social interactions than I appreciate. Now, don’t get me wrong, while I’m an avowed introvert, I am not averse to a bit of chit-chat while passing each other or standing at the sink or waving hands across the (high tech) motion-activated paper towel dispenser.
What drives me up the wall is women who begin conversations with you and continue them into the stalls. I would so much rather be completely alone when on the toilet. I don’t want to hear idle conversation interspersed with cascades of water. Not everyone does it, and I pretty much know that if I go in with certain women, they will chatter on. But more of tips for avoidance later in this article.
The bathroom echoes, too, and the wooden door has a large grate at the bottom through which you can hear everything that goes on in there. I’m always surprised at the conversations women carry on by the sinks. Or worse yet, the ones who talk on their phones while they’re peeing. Oh my gosh, do not get me started about that one.
How Do I Choose a Stall?
Stall choices are mainly decided by my intended bodily function.
Poop — Choose the far stall by the window. The reason for this is the window — large, multi-paned with frosted pebbled glass, which can be opened when smells become too horrible to tolerate. One of the problems with that stall is that something about the flush mechanism causes a slight spray of water onto the seat which must be wiped before use. This stall is the widest, and is handy for changing clothes if one is going to the gym. I’ve heard people do that. And no, this stall is not handicapped accessible, nor are any of the stalls on any floor in the building. Built in 1955, remember? Nobody was handicapped back then, clearly.
Pee — Any of the others will do, but let’s examine the relative merits.
The first stall, legend tells us, is the cleanest. I’m not sure I believe that. It has the narrowest door clearance, so a full-figured woman such as myself is likely to whack myself on the toilet paper dispenser while sidling into the stall. Not my fave, but I often go in that one if the far one is occupied.
The second stall used to be my favorite because of its Goldilocks-ian attributes. The latch works, the paper dispenser works. I say “used to be” because I decided to mix things up and also because I worried that my choice was restricting other people’s choices too much. Yes, I have a problem.
The third stall is the worst. I do not understand why anyone would choose this one, but it seems to be some women’s favorite. The distance between the leg and the door is too far, so the latch just barely fits into the slot. The door will often swing open. Plus there’s a gap so anyone could look in if they were so inclined. I will not go in it unless I absolutely have to.
The choice is made more difficult if other stalls are occupied. I will not go into a stall right next to someone if I can help it at all. It seems rude to me. And yet, women do it all the time. Sigh. Maybe they don’t think so hard about it.
It’s Not Over Even When You Finish
Leaving a stall can be an important issue. Typically I finish up, go to the sink, wave my hand over the towel dispenser sensor like I’m in a Hogwarts bathroom, and leave. When someone comes in, though, when I’m finishing up, I listen for their footsteps. I can pretty much guess who has come into the restroom by the sound of their shoes on the ceramic tile. Depending on who I think it is, I will often delay zipping my pants until they have left, so I don’t have to talk to her.
Come On and Visit Sometime!
Restroom behavior can be instructive. I learned about the existence of Poo-Pourri from a spray bottle left on the window sill of the last stall. But generally I prefer to slip into the room, take care of my bodily needs, and get out without engaging in conversation. If you’re ever in the area, feel free to stop in and visit the women’s restroom on the third floor. You now know which stall to choose. Just don’t say anything to me if you see me in there.