Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It didn’t used to be this complicated

It used to be pretty easy -- going potty, that is. 

When I was a kid visiting my grandparents’ farm and decided to use the outhouse instead of the indoor bathroom, I had but two choices to make – whether to sit on the adult-sized potty hole, where I had to tense the muscles in my arms to brace myself and keep from falling in, or on the child-sized hole, which I was soon to outgrow. Then, business taken care of, I had another choice to make – corn cob or Sears Roebuck catalog. One was scratchy, the other so slick it was as if I hadn’t wiped at all. Of the two, though, each had its benefits, depending upon the outhouse business that trip. 

Today, bathrooms are way too complicated. 

C’mon, admit it. You know what I mean.  Be it the sink, stool, soap dispenser, towel machine, waste receptacle, door or hot air dryer, you never know from one potty stop to the next what you’ll need to do, how things will work. 

On a recent road trip through Illinois and Missouri, many of those miles traveled along Route 66, I made more pit stops than I’d like to admit – at fast food restaurants, highway rest stops and super discount stores. It seemed as if at every stop, I had to re-learn going to the bathroom. 

Seriously now, how did it get so confusing? 

Take toilets, for instance. 

Some flush when you get up, some don’t. Of the flush-when-you’re-done variety, some do it right away, some wait until the next person is through the door, seeing the evidence you left behind before it all swooshes away – if it does. Some stools supposed to flush on their own don’t do as intended. When that happens, you’ve got to figure out what to do – move your hand back and forth in front of the electric eye or push a button. If there’s a button, where is it – top or side, black or chrome? 

And, with it all so automated these days, it’s becoming easier and easier to just plain forget to flush at all. Occasionally, though, you will still run across a toilet with a lever, especially at home, where the next person in the bathroom knows your name and can nab you as the “who-done-it” when you do forget to flush.

In this little piece, we won’t even talk toilet paper dispensers or stall doors. They seem to be the least complicated of any of this stuff these days. 

But, hand-washing – what a challenge it’s become! 

Does the water go on by itself or do you have to push or turn something? If it is automatic, where exactly do you need to hold your hands to get the water flowing? If you have to push the faucet on, does it go off by itself, or will it still be running when you’re 10 miles down the road? 

We women must be a bit ahead of the men on the receiving end of restroom technology – that or we visit more restrooms. The other day, my hubby told me he’d just run across his first automatic soap dispenser.  

What about those things? Did you ever mistake one for the faucet? I’ll admit it. I have.

As for the regular soap dispensers, how often have you tried to use one, only to find it’s empty and, instead, there’s a bottle of dollar store soap on the counter – or nothing at all? Or you go to lather up with soap and discover you’ve used the antiseptic hand sanitizer by mistake? 

Come time to dry your hands, all the confusion often begins anew. Is the dispenser automatic or isn’t it? 

Automatic? Where do you hold your hand for the dispenser to kick the towel out? 

Manual? Do you turn a dial, pull down – or what!? 

Is it one of those bathrooms with fabric towels? Ewww! How many germs are breeding there?

Or perhaps there’s an electric hand dryer. 

Now you’ve got to figure out whether to push a button or not, hold your hands here or hold them there, wait for them to get blown to kingdom come or wonder if the air is coming out at all. 

About to go out the door, if said bathroom is one with towels, you’ve got another dilemma.

Is there a wastebasket? Is it in the counter, under it, beside it, or across from it? What kind of gymnastics do you have to do to open the door with the towel, brace it with your shoulder, and reach back around without touching anything to toss the paper? It isn’t easy sometimes, is it? 

To make things even more complicated, some of these bathroom doors have a pedal on the bottom. It’s supposed to open the door – great idea. No cooties after you wash your hands. There’s just one last problem here. It seems like you need a Ph.D. in restroom innovation to know how to work it. 

Next time I’m road tripping, I may just forgo all the potty stops and try to find an old abandoned farmstead. 

In my dreams it will be as simple as they get. Out back I’ll find a one-hole outhouse with a yellowed phone book for toilet paper and, somewhere nearby, a pump with a bar of lye soap, hole in the center, hanging from a string. 

As for the towels, who needs ‘em? 

It’ll be a lot less complicated if I just shake my hands dry as we did back in the good old days.

© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012  

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