Archive for March 23rd, 2007


the Politics of the Institutional Lavatory. or, Keep John Ashcroft Out Of My Stall!

March 23, 2007

At my last job, the bathroom was like a second office. I worked for a small nonprofit and there were six other people in my building and all of them were females. There was a single toilet and a sink and it was always very bright in there and cooler (temperature wise) than my office. It was a great place to hang out.


(Not my bathroom, but a nice one nonetheless)

Except when one of the ladies in the office took it upon herself to wreak havoc in there in the morning, which happened about twice a week. Which, judging from the awful smell she left, was about how often she went to the bathroom at all. And then she’d make it worse by emptying about a quarter of an industrial sized bottle of Fresh Linen Lysol into the air.

If you’ve ever caught a whiff of Fresh Linen Lysol, you know the name is misleading. I’ve smelled plenty of fresh linens, at least I did before I went to college, and I don’t ever remember them making my eyes burn and my lungs fill with fluid. “Napalm in the Morning” might be a more appropriate label.

I found the situation bothersome, to say the least. I sat in staff meetings trying to think of a way to put a delicate voice to my concerns.

One more thing before we adjourn. Umm, ladies, let’s please remember to use only the toilets assigned to our specific gender, ummkay? I mean, you don’t see me going into the ladies room and peeing on the seat, do you? And if we’re getting ready to put in an order for supplies, let’s add some fiber bars to the list, and maybe some colon cleansing products. Because unless one of you is actually a 300-pound trucker subsisting primarily on steak fingers and Mad Dog 20/20 wine, you’ve got a situation going on that could use some rectification. For lack of a better term.


(Mad Dog 20/20 Wine)


(Steak Fingers and fixins, courtesy Dairy Queen)

Needless to say I never said what was in my heart. I did, once or twice when the odor was just too much to handle in the men’s room, slip next door to the ladies’ facility and relieve myself there. And if a stray drop or two made it onto the seat, well, sorry for the friggin’ inconvenience.

Thankfully, I was able to leave that office behind, and am now employed by a much larger organization. I can not name this organization, but it is one which boasts more than a thousand employees, and occupies many many buildings grouped closely together in what one might accurately refer to as a “campus” type of configuration.

It is a place where the men use the men’s room and the women use the women’s room, which is good. It’s good for civilization. Rules, you know. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues are now men, and I have had to give up the luxury of my own private lavatory.

There is a men’s room near my own office, but I find it almost always uninhabitable. It’s small, for starters, and despite the fact that it has high ceilings, the only ventilation seems to come from the fan, which only runs when the light is on. And every morning some middle-management type goes in there and completely blows the place up, and on the way out he cuts the lights (and the fan), leaving the situation to deteriorate throughout the day.

Luckily one of the buildings next door has been newly remodeled and the new restroom is just first class all the way. Natural sunlight, the walls are clean, good air flow, not much traffic. It really is a pleasure to do business in there.

But one daythis week, as I’m on my way out, I find this sign taped to the door:


“Have you washed your hands before touching this handle?”

Not that I have a problem with the message. My mama raised me right, and I always wash my hands before I leave the men’s room. Always. Unless I’m in a gas station or a bar or some other facility where it would be reasonable to believe that the sink is dirtier than my own by-products. Or I’m in a real hurry. Or I was especially careful. No, I ‘m kidding. ALWAYS.


I just don’t like the tone. You know, it’s like having a preschool teacher standing in front of the door doing inspections. It actually reminds me of middle school when Mr. _______ used to walk in while the boys were using the bathroom and just stand around to “make sure there were no shenanigans.” I’m not sure this was on his official list of duties, come to think of it, or that the principal was even aware of what was going on.

Regardless, no one needs to be reminded of their duties en regards to keeping their hands feces-free. Everyone knows their hands are supposed to be clean. Some people are just too sorry to follow up.

It’s also worrisome to me that no one is taking credit for the sign. It doesn’t say “A message from your friendly local health department” or “concerned citizens for clean palms (CCCP)” or even “management.”

No. This is some hygiene vigilante. Some wild-eyed fiend who either:

a) is obsessed with hand-washing,

b) has spent enough time in that particular bathroom to notice a trend (hidden camera?) and/or

c) is John Ashcroft.


Be on the lookout, folks. He’s out there. Somewhere. Watching over your daily business.