When I was in elementary school, one of the worst things that could happen is if your friends caught you off guard and shoved you into the girls’ bathroom. You had to get back out of there ASAP! Any dallying around trying to see exactly what might be different was bound to come up later on the playground. Even if your friends held the door shut, you were supposed to summon superhuman strength to bull your way back into the gender-neutral safety of the hallway. Reputations were at stake.
I was reminded of the fun we had pushing each other into the forbidden zone after reading about how Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is fighting the battle to fend off the federal government’s decree that public schools must allow people to use whichever bathroom matches their “gender identity.”
While I’m certainly not saying it’s not a worthy use of the AG’s time and energy to keep Alabama’s bathrooms segregated between standers or squatters, it would be nice if Big Luther could spend more time hammering political corruption. Hubbard was a good start, but he was hardly the exception to the rule. This state’s politics need a good double flush, to use a disgusting bathroom metaphor. But I digress. Back to the bathroom debate.
I honestly don’t understand the huge controversy of allowing people who gotta go to go where they wanna go. Advocates argue the transgendered and others who might not be completely certain where they stand (or sit) need legislation so they’re not discriminated against. And I can see that. Nobody wants to be thrown out of a public bathroom.
Opponents worry it’s going to make people uncomfortable if they’re not really, really sure who’s in the next stall. And I can get that as well, I suppose, if you’re someone who likes to do a lot of looking around and socializing in public bathrooms.
I always thought this issue would sort of take care of itself naturally as more and more unisex bathrooms have popped up. Also, the unisex comfort of peeing in parking lots and public garages has gained tremendous popularity in recent years.
But as usual, these issues get out of hand. I can almost imagine the National Guard being called out to some particularly defiant bathroom.
As I said, I’m all for people going where they are most comfortable, but I would caution the transgendered — particularly those who identify as men — that they may not be quite as happy with their new rights as they’d hoped. The “right” to walk into a public men’s room is one I’d trade for the right to pee in a parking lot any day. Men’s rooms are not typically happy places.
Most public men’s rooms look like my slobbiest college roommate has lived there for the past 25 years. We try to operate everything with our feet. Stall doors are kicked open like you’re a vice cop trying to bust a drug kingpin. Toilets are unflushed. Sinks are generally a judgment call — as long as I didn’t accidentally pee on my hands, I think I’m better off not touching the sink.
For some even getting out of the bathroom creates anxiety. I have seen plenty of guys who use hand-drying paper as a method of pulling the handle without actually touching it. Resourceful, but sad in a Howard Hughes kind of way as well.
Hand driers are supposed to help us feel better, but they’re so worthless most men just use their pants as towels. In fact, my next great business idea is to sell every men’s room in America an old pair of blue jeans that can be hung on the bathroom wall. It’ll save billions in paper towel and blow drier electricity costs.
One of the great pleasures of being a small business owner for the past 14 years has been to watch our company’s bathroom evolution. When we were small we were actually far more progressive. There was only one bathroom for our small staff. Everyone had to identify with that bathroom and it remained relatively clean. It was only after we grew that we started having bathroom issues.
Our first office with multiple bathrooms started to kind of separate a bit into a predominantly ladies’ room and a predominantly men’s room. But other than one employee who routinely clogged the ladies’ room, there was relative bathroom harmony. (Guess who got to unclog it.)
But as the staff grew and we changed locations, things only got worse. Once there was a door with an “M” on it and another with a “W,” all hell broke loose. Before long I was forced to start sending emails to the male members of my staff reminding them that I was not a janitor, plumber or bathroom attendant, and that I have a weak stomach.
Without getting too gory, there was one short-term employee who pushed things way over the line. It didn’t take “CSI: Bathroom” to figure out when he’d been in the men’s room or what had prompted his visit. The dude left more clues than O.J., and frankly I would rather have worked that crime scene. (Too soon? Sorry.)
From gentle admonitions to downright angry emails, nothing helped. And it always seemed like I was the one who walked in right after he left.
One day this guy actually tracked into the newsroom some TP he’d failed to successfully convey into the toilet. (Missing something he was hypothetically sitting on was sort of the norm for him.) I’d like to say it didn’t affect his employment status, but it certainly didn’t enhance it. Hopefully he went on to work in a bus station bathroom or cleaning portable toilets.
So as we enter an era of new rights, let’s remember that with rights come responsibilities, and those responsibilities start with leaving the men’s room at least as clean as it was when you got there. If we really want to end this debate, though, the government should require people who identify as “filthy slobs” to have their own bathrooms.
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