Friday, June 17, 2011


This is a gross and strange way to start a post, but here it is. Yesterday I walked in to use the bathroom in the late afternoon. I selected my favorite stall, yes, I have a favorite stall, don't you at work? It has nice natural light and the toilet doesn't automatically flush four times like the others. Valid reasons for favoritism. Anyway, I entered the bright confines of my favorite stall and opened the toilet lid and there was sitting a nasty used tampon. I'm not squeamish. But this surprising, unrequested peek into some other woman's bodily fluids pissed me off.

Our office is a quiet building most of year. Our floor only has two other companies with office space, one more on the ground floor and several in the basement. The bathrooms on our floor stay quite clean and empty most of the time. But then summer rolls around. The building is invaded. The irritating-company-whom-I-shall-not-name-but-you-can-guess knife sales trainees take over. They use one of the empty offices. They shout their mantras once or twice a day and applaud vigorously on command. They used to spread out and take over the hallways with their notebooks and cellphones, making their loud, scripted cold calls. They leave bits of frayed rope and pennies cut in half scattered in the halls and parking lots. But worst of all, they use the bathrooms. And here's where I get judgmental.

This group of trainees are generally young, high school/college age. And there's no polite way to word this, they are dirty, messy, loud little bastards. Not all of them I'm sure. But enough of them to make a daily impact on my clean little world. They don't flush. They don't throw away their paper towels. They pee on the seat and leave it. Now, maybe I'm just a priss or a goody two shoes. But this is rude and gross, right? Don't parents teach these kind of polite public habits anymore? There's no one to complain to either, other than you. These are anonymous bathroom de-foulers. We probably can't justify setting up video surveillance to catch the culprits. We just have to suffer through the few months of the summer and relish the time when they leave.

My irritation reminds me of a character from Ally McBeal, a show I barely tolerated when Joe wanted me to watch it with him in college. This attorney on the show, played by Peter MacNichol, whose only other role I can recall was as the strangely accented art museum employee who gets possessed in the 2nd and awful Ghostbusters movie. He plays John "The Biscuit" Cage and his defining character trait, other than being persnickety and odd, was that he owned his own personal toilet flushing remote that he used religiously before he entered a stall. He hated seeing other people's remnants. And suddenly I find myself feeling like The Biscuit.

In fact, I'm jealous of The Biscuit. I lack a toilet flushing remote. I'm not sure those even exist and yet I want one. I can't just leave the groddy tampon sitting there unflushed. I can't leave the paper towels on the floor or the pee on the seat for the next person. I can't leave it alone. I don't want someone else to have to deal with the nastiness or the rudeness either. So I clean up someone else's mess and wash my hands about a thousand times. But here's the question, are you the kind of person that will go out of your way to clean up after a stranger? Is this just me? Am I the weirdo here? I hate the fact that my eyes have had to witness someone else's used tampon or floating poop. I feel this way in every public bathroom. It makes me want to yell and scream for having been forced to witness someone else's dirty ol' humanity up close. I don't have this issue with baby diapers or helping the elderly, or people who can't care for themselves. I once had to help one of my disabled clients shower diarrhea off of himself. It took forever, it was unpleasant, it was an experience I hope to never repeat. But it didn't make me angry. Because it was necessary. Those snotty teenage girls forgetting to flush their tampons, well that's just rude. End of rant.

What gets you all riled up? Possibly beyond the rational scope of the actual problem? (Which I fully admit might have just happened in this post, but as long as I don't start finding my ramblings posted on passive aggressive I think I'm ok.)


McMillan said...

So I definitely have this SAME rant on a semi-frequent basis; more often than should be required. Obviously, I work on a high school campus, so the bathrooms there are bound to be similarly disgusting, but the thing is, I'm a staff member and we have staff bathrooms. You'd *think* these would stay squeaky clean, given that only adult women use them. And yet, still, there are times where I go in to my favorite stall (this is totally normal in my opinion; I've had a favorite stall at every job I've ever worked, just FYI) and some kind of disgusting mess is left behind. It's at the point where I am convinced that students sneak in to our bathrooms when the door happens to not shut properly, because, seriously, how could a GROWN UP leave that kind of mess behind? Granted, I don't recall period mess before (but have encountered it plenty on things like Speech and Debate tournament trips while using the same bathrooms as the high schoolers), but my co-worker and I, who share this rant at least once a week, are convinced someone on our staff needs to have their gastrointestinal health checked and their ability to clean up after themselves corrected...

You're probably right that it's the young people, but clearly, if students aren't sneaking into our staff bathroom, adults are just as capable at being disgusting slobs as kids. And though I also will generally clean up messes other people have left like you, I approach this same issue with this thought: I don't want anyone to see what I've left behind, to the point where I'm almost obsessive about not leaving a trace. I will stand and watch the swirl of the flushing toilet -- twice or three times if I have to and the toilet completely sucks and has no flushing power -- just to make sure that every single shred of even just innocuous toilet paper goes all the way down. Why would you want someone to see that element of you, let alone have to have someone clean up after you? I've even been known to clean up sink areas, too, and get rid of trash. I think that's the training from working retail...

But I totally hear you here -- and for the record, guys might be gross, but I'm starting to think that women's bathrooms are just plain more disgusting than mens... at least, there's the potential for them to be more disgusting, anyway.

And if it matters, I have been known to leave passive-aggressive notes in bathrooms, especially in my dorm-living days. But it didn't seem to help as much as you'd like.

bethany actually said...

When I was an RA in college, I once walked into the showers and stopped cold because there was a used tampon lying in the corner. A USED TAMPON IN THE COMMUNITY SHOWER. I'm not squeamish either, but it was so utterly gross for me to encounter unexpectedly, and I was incensed by the thoughtlessness it took for someone to leave that there. I made angry posters to put up on the mirrors about it, and within about ten minutes someone had torn them down and stuffed them in the trash, so I assumed---hoped!---that the person who needed to see the posters had seen them.

In other words, no. You're not alone in your feelings about people who leave gross messes in bathrooms for others to clean up.