3.31.2009

Bathrooms and their mystique

As a thoroughbred American, I've come to have absolutely no expectations when entering and using an unfamiliar bathroom. Every one of them is different. Don't believe me? Without walking in, what do you know about a bathroom from the outside? Do you need to lock the door behind you or will you have an individual stall? Should the lights going to go on when you open the door, or will the light-switch be in a standard location? Once you're inside, what is automatic and what do you have to do manually? Flush? Turn on the faucet? Dispense soap? Turn off the faucet? Hand dryer or paper towel or both?

You don't know, but you've grown accustomed to not knowing. In fact, by dealing with this your whole life, you can even juggle all these variables while needing to go really bad.

I've developed my own lever jiggling, button searching, hand-waving dance for when I enter a new lavatory. Teaching my children this ritual however, has been daunting and slow at best. Since our first airplane ride together (admittedly air-potties are a whole separate breed of bathroom) we've had to coach the kids through a maze of what we affectionately call, "The facilities." Like newborn wildebeests who have to run within minutes of birth or be left behind by the herd, so too did my children have to figure out how to pee in a 2 foot square airplane toilet. Then they then had to learn how to navigate various airport bathrooms with their disorienting mix of autoflushers and automatic hand dryers. Keep in mind that the oh-so-helpful symbols usually show in bathrooms, like a hand with red wavy lines going across it, mean absolutely nothing. And it really doesn't ever get any more intuitive, you just get used to every bathroom being unique. You eventually gain a sense for how long you should flop your hands under a faucet before drawing the conclusion that the sensor is broken and you should move to a different sink.

Needless to say, over the past months I have been called into a myriad of bathrooms to see or explain stuff that are obvious to me only because dealing with bathrooms is so second nature. No, you can't control the temperature of the water. Yes, everytime you wiggle, the toilet will flush. No, I've never seen a handdryer so high-powered or heard one so loud. Yes that's still soap even though it's blue here, and it was pink in the last bathroom we were at. The list goes on and on.

So when I was beckoned into a truckstop bathroom by my son who had already been in there alone for a good 10 minutes, I just rolled my eyes and complied. I was about to say, "You have been in America for 9 months and have seen everything every stateside bathroom has to offer. For the love of all that's Holy can we please get back in the car," and that's when Habtamu pointed to the wall and said, "Daddy, what's that?"

"Ask your Mother," I said, totally flushed.

6 comments:

ABG said...

oh my GAWD you guys make me laugh. I am literally going to go find a bathroom myself lest I pee my pants!

ABG said...

...and I REALLY hope you didn't take a picture of it yourself? I mean, please tell me you got that picture by googling "go ask your mother" or something? :)

Nikki said...

Hilarious! I mean, who would have ever thought! Curious, how did mom answer?

Always enjoy your adventures with H and Y!

Yarnsmith said...

Nikki, I told him that that was something for men, not boys, and that he shouldn't worry about it for many years. I'm all for being open and honest with children, but imagine trying to explain how to put those on and why. The time will come, and that's fine, but there are things (I think) they just don't need to know at this point.

Windchimes said...

Yes, there are definitely things they don't need to know right now... I try to skirt around any 'adult' issues at this point... When it comes to that, I'm sending my kids over to you, ok? "Ask Auntie Chris, she knows everything about THAT subject!"

Cuz Jill in SD said...

Thanks for the big ole guffaw that just burst out of my mouth! What an awesome story! Actually, while you were telling it, I was sitting there thinking of my own experiences with every restaurant and store bathroom in town, since I have 2 children who chronically NEED to PEE everytime we leave the house. . . then I got to the punchline, and just lost it! Thanks- I needed that! :oP