In the bad old chemo-and-radiation days I developed a highly accurate mental map of the location of every public rest room on my regular routes around the county, a map that still comes in handy even though I no longer need it so urgently. I know which rest rooms are generally clean and which ones tend to run out of toilet paper, which ones require a big clunky key and which ones are hidden behind doors marked “employees only."
I’ve never forgiven the convenience store that refused to allow me to use the rest room even though (a) I was really sick; (b) I promised to buy something on the way out; and (c) the next available rest room was several miles up a busy road. That store was recently purchased by a national chain and transformed into a full-service gas station/convenience store, and one of these days I intend to walk in there and use the rest room without buying anything at all. They owe me a free flush!
The ladies’ room at my daughter’s church keeps bottles of hand lotion on the counter, which is a nice treat after the harsh soap and hot-air dryers. I’ve been in rest rooms featuring comfy sofas, diaper-changing tables, and soft cloth towels, but all I really require from a public rest room is that it be clean, private, functional, and available.
Still, when the need was urgent enough I’ve settled for a rest room where even the soap looked dirty, where doors wouldn’t shut and there were holes in the walls big enough to toss a shoe through, or with floors so filthy I wanted to apologize to my shoes. I’ve used the men’s room when the ladies’ wasn’t available and I’ve used outhouses inhabited by spiders and portapotties that made me want to puke.
This week I hit a new low: I used a rest room without realizing that there was no running water. Intrepid investigation revealed that the company had turned off the water at the main because the toilet keeps running and the water bill has been through the roof. Did they post an “out of order” sign on the door? No, they did not; they just allowed unsuspecting visitors to discover the problem when the toilet refused to flush.
Here’s a hint: in a pinch, it’s possible to wash your hands with bottled water. It’s not the most cost-effective method, but it works.