Surviving Public Toilets: My Story, and Some Helpful Hints

A private toilet. Not too shabby compared to the alternatives out there.
A private toilet. Not too shabby compared to the alternatives out there. | Source

The other day I was down at the local shopping mall, and suddenly I needed the loo. There’s nothing worse for a lot of people than being out somewhere, and you need to go… badly.

I hated going to the bathrooms at school, because not only was there the risk of being bogwashed (getting your head stuck down the chong and someone flushes) by some kids (which luckily didn’t happen to me), but also the good chance of having to do your business while a bunch of other people are hanging around outside the stalls, jacking around; making a noise – all the while fearing that they’re more than likely plotting to do some unspeakably bad things to you, even if it’s later on at some point, and not right away.

I can probably count the number of times that I visited the school bathrooms, throughout my entire school attendance, on two hands. We all know that people who went to the toilets didn’t do it because they needed to go – they went there to pass the time for several minutes to get out of doing schoolwork. It was a break thing, or perhaps like the tales suggest, they went there to hide their stashes before the police arrived with their drug sniffing dogs on a random morning.

Until recently, I hadn’t gone to a public restroom for about five years. This is probably due in part to the fact that I loathe going to shopping malls and probably most other crowded areas in the first place. Everyone else goes there – and that’s why I don’t. In fact, if I weren’t so uncomfortable with the whole online shopping phenomenon and having my financial details online (especially after the whole Sony PSN fiasco), I’d shop from home.

Anyway, there I was in the mall, and I needed to go, so I rushed off looking for a restroom. Every obstacle was thrown my way; I didn’t know off hand where the toilets were, because I’d avoided visiting them for most of my life (one downside I suppose), and there was a lot of construction going on at the mall, which impeded my ability to go wherever I wanted – in more ways than one (hell, I considered having a “bos***” in one of the planters, or in a quiet corner somewhere – except there weren’t any.).

So after taking several detours and the like, I finally reached the one remaining restroom in that section of the mall. It was the bloody staff toilet, filled with builders.

As I walked in there, there was the all familiar setting: guys standing by the sinks chatting loudly to each other; the overpowering smell of faeces mixed with cleaning agents. The smell was pure fear. You’ve never known fear or stress until you’ve entered a public toilet. And it’s even worse for a paranoid, I can tell you.

I was back in the nightmare again.

Survival kit for public toilets

These are some of the things everybody should carry with them, whether it’s in a handbag or in the car in case you need to use a toilet somewhere that isn’t in your own house:

  • A toilet roll, in case the toilet you go to doesn’t have any.
  • A bar of soap, in case there’s no soap.
  • Liquid hand sanitizer, in case there’s no sink or any running water.
  • A hand towel to wipe your hands on.
  • Some tissues, to wipe your eyes (Gotcha!) with.
  • Maybe a glove to touch germ-infested door handles or toilet flushers with.
  • Some disinfectant to spray on the toilet seat.
  • A toilet seat cover or a mat of sorts to sit on instead of the bare seat.
  • A can of pepper spray or mace to deal with ogling perverts.
  • Some air freshener for when you’re done.

I walked over to the second stall and just stood there for a brief while, hearing the chatting behind me cease for a second. I remembered for a short instant what I’d seen on this little show called “Manswers” (man + answers = supposedly clever title). Apart from it being a rubbish little waste of programming designed to cater to the stereotypical, idiotic, beer guzzling frat boy, there was a little bit of knowledge -street smarts- I obtained from it.

And it was as follows: always go for the first stall. Everybody goes for the other stalls, but the first stall -according to the experts (janitors)- is the best; the least filthy.

So I quickly changed stalls, walking in to the first one instead. Obviously, just from looking at the place, someone else had watched that very episode of “Manswers”. Because the bowl was sprayed with you know what, and there was even some smeared diagonally on the stall wall, like someone drawing directions on a chalkboard. I looked at the whole roll of toilet paper sitting in its holder on the side of the stall, and figured that it was obviously put in after the incident in question took place.

Myth concerning the first stall being the cleanest: bull****.

With some hesitation, I locked myself in. I couldn’t walk out and go into another stall now. The second stall, which was free moments ago, was occupied now. It was too late – I had to commit; commit a crime against nature.

I did the old squat and hover manoeuvre, but I was kind of worried about the trajectory. I didn’t want to make the situation or current condition of the stall any worse than it all ready was. So I eventually compromised, much to my chagrin, by allowing my legs to kind of touch the seat, just leaning against it, as it were. But there was no way I was going to rest my entire backside on it, or god forbid, allow my new jacket to rest against the unclean cistern.

But before I did this, I actually took some toilet paper and wiped the surface of the seat. Some might argue that all I’m doing is spreading the germs from one area to all over the seat. I know it might sound horrid, but I “put” a bit of saliva onto the paper, and then wiped it. Hey, if cats can cover themselves in spit and call themselves clean, then it’s good enough for me. I’d rather sit in my spit than someone else’s ****.

"The smell was pure fear. You’ve never known fear or stress until you’ve entered a public toilet. And it’s even worse for a paranoid, I can tell you."

Click thumbnail to view full-size
An outhouse - form of public toilet. The skull indicates that this one is for animals only.The Japanese take this stuff really seriously. It's wireless too. I'd hate to be sitting on on that john if it got hacked.See what I mean? This is that sound-generating device I spoke of.
An outhouse - form of public toilet. The skull indicates that this one is for animals only.
An outhouse - form of public toilet. The skull indicates that this one is for animals only. | Source
The Japanese take this stuff really seriously. It's wireless too. I'd hate to be sitting on on that john if it got hacked.
The Japanese take this stuff really seriously. It's wireless too. I'd hate to be sitting on on that john if it got hacked. | Source
See what I mean? This is that sound-generating device I spoke of.
See what I mean? This is that sound-generating device I spoke of. | Source

Then the next dilemma facing me was whether I should do a courtesy flush. Women always do this, and people (men) say it’s a waste of water. In fact, in Japan they got around this problem by inventing a system where the toilet would make a noise sounding like a flush, when in actual fact it wasn’t. There was a speaker mounted somewhere on the john.

The British might be mostly known for allegedly having an entire culture revolving around the toilet, but if anyone takes it seriously, it’s the Japanese. They even allegedly have toilet doctors, and what this is, is a contraption that sits in the middle of the bowl, and then a person will urinate on it, and then from that sample the doctor will be able to tell you whether you have a urinary tract infection or something or other. Well, I read about it years ago, but I don’t know if they really exist.

Did I have a speaker on the toilet that would emit a sound, sounding like a flush? No. This is South Africa, you must remember. Some people aren’t even that lucky to own a toilet, unless you count a plank of wood with a hole in it that sits precariously on the edge of a cliff (known in some parts as a long drop – for more reasons than one).

I considered clearing my throat; coughing; making some sort of noise that would mask the process taking place. Then I heard the guy next door and what was going on in that stall…

I did a courtesy flush after all, of course taking a bit of toilet paper to press the flush button with. This was actually a good thing, because just now I will reveal why it’s best to use up as much toilet tissue as you can before actually using any on your body.

Bathroom etiquette

  • When entering a bathroom, private or public, do close the door while occupying it. You may lock it as well.

  • Don't enter the bathroom if someone is already occupying it.

  • Don't take too long in the bathroom.

  • Don't use the toilet for anything other than what it was intended for.

  • Don't make unnecessary sounds while occupying the bathroom.

  • Do use a courtesy flush if necessary.

  • Do use air freshener.

  • Do put the seat down and sit on it instead of sitting on the rim of the bowl.

  • Do flush after using the toilet. The whole "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down" mantra is nonsense. Always flush. If anything remains, flush again.

  • Do make sure the inside of the bowl is clean after using the toilet.
  • Do make sure the seat is clean after using the toilet.

  • After using the toilet, do make sure enough toilet tissue is left for the next visitor.

  • Do close the bathroom door after you are done.

Then I did my business, which was masked under the cover of loudness (flushing noise coupled with the person in the next stall). After I was done, only then did I take some toilet paper. The reason why you should do this, is because you don’t know what goes on in public toilets – and maybe you don’t want to know either. A Google search online, flipping through a lad’s magazine, or watching “Manswers” will tell you all you need to know. And if you see a lad’s magazine in the stall you’re occupying, evacuate with all due haste. There, I've given you enough clues.

After that it was time to flush the thing for real. I didn’t realise it was one of those flushers that you have to hold in. So when I only pressed lightly, it looked as though the thing was going to clog up. I’m used to the old “flush and forget” mechanism, so I got worried, and tried again, this time holding the button in for longer than before. The sound got louder and louder – it was almost like the sound of a kettle boiling, but much louder – and the water rose to the rim, threatening to come over the side. I panicked and took my finger off the button just in time, only to see the water with everything else subside and disappear.

Crisis averted.

Then I finally exited the stall after checking that I had everything and nothing had been accidentally flushed down the toilet (people drop cell phones and the like in there – sounds unbelievable but it’s true), and approached the sinks. I took the one on the end, away from the man suspiciously guarding one of the other basins (he’d been standing there against the counter when I went in – I don’t know if he waiting for a stall to free up or something). Always look for gel or liquid soap. Don’t use a regular bar of soap, because that will more than likely be infested with germs. I got the liquid soap, thankfully.

Then it was over to the hand dryer. No paper towels to dry your hands on here. I held out my hands and got a blast of warm air that barely lasted a few seconds. I thought about withdrawing my hands and then sticking them under again, but thought the better of it, knowing that the machine wouldn’t be tricked so easily (they aren’t so stupid any more, you know). So I took my semi-wet hands and left. I didn’t want to spend another second in there.

As I walked out of the restroom, wiping my hands on the inside of the back pockets on my jeans, I could have sworn that I heard someone behind me utter under their breath: “Oh my god, have you no shame?”

Well obviously not, because I just used a public toilet, after all. And let’s hope it will be the last time for another five years at least. In fact, another visit in a hundred years would still be too soon.

What do you think about using public toilets?

  • I love them! They're a necessary thing in life.
  • I don't mind them.
  • I dislike using public toilets.
  • I hate the things! You couldn't pay me to use one!
See results without voting

© 2011 Anti-Valentine

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