I abhor public restrooms. I can't think of many others who find it a joy to visit a bathroom visited by many others.
Early on in my teaching career I developed a bladder of steel, mostly out of lack of opportunity for relief, but also because of the hysteria instigated by the undercover reporters of 60 Minutes who swabbed toilets with Q-tips, proving that the ill-fated E-Coli was just one flush away . I circumvented the unfamiliar commode in the same way I would avoid stepping on the round, metal covers of sewers. It was highly unlikely I would be the one pedestrian to fall into the black hole of neighborhood waste, but I wasn't willing to risk such a hazardous step. In school, I would dance and wiggle my way through an entire day rather than engage in an activity that forced me to confront the cavalry of cooties which, in my paranoid mind, swarmed all over every stall.
However, as the mom of small children, my super-hero skills of lavatory restraint do not benefit my cause. Pea-sized bladders have forced me to frequent every bathroom of every public place we have ever visited. These breeding bastions of bacteria beckon all little children the same way a fully costumed, buck-toothed Easter Bunny draws the curiosity of a hesitant child - they aren't sure they want to be that close to them, but they definitely want to at least take a peek.
To my crew a visit to the restroom is somewhat of an adventure, one that as a parent you are reluctantly committed to explore, only to watch them discover the terror of the automatic flusher which scares their urinary tracts into immediate compliance. We have been participating in the Tour de Toilets for over eight years and my children now, unprovoked, theatrically proclaim upon entering any stall, "DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING!" They have been trained well.
Mary Mac, my four year old, has probably caused me the most distress in public restrooms. With her two older brothers, a "point and shoot" method for most occasions has proved effective in our ongoing fight against germs. Not so for my daughter. Couple our "positioning" issues with her desire to speak very loudly, and you have unexpected, undesired dialogue in a public place for all to hear.
Recently she and I walked into a very crowded bathroom, waited in a very long line, only for her to pronounce in a very loud voice that she was NOT going into the stall because "THAT LADY JUST MADE IT TOO STINKY." I tried to give "the lady" an apologetic smile but, unfortunately, her disagreeable stomach would not allow her to receive any contrition on my behalf.
I remembered this awkward interaction as the two of us again found ourselves looking for a restaurant restroom this past week. Before entering, I reminded Mary Mac that it was not nice manners to point out the smells of others. (Yes, I realize the absurdity of this conversation, but if you had been the recipient of the scathing look from the "stinky lady", you would have said something similar. I'm sure of it.)
We walked into another crowded bathroom, waited in another line, only to find ourselves confronted with another awful odor. As we exchanged places with the gastrointestinal offender (G.I.O.) I gave my four year old the evil eye with a raised eyebrow, hoping we could avoid another embarassing scene. Mary Mac responded to my facial gestures with these exact words, with her speaker on full volume, "FINE. I'm not going to say it STINKS in here,but you're gonna have to HOLD MY NOSE while I go."
Because I am a big chicken, we did not come out of the stall until I was certain the previous occupant had exited the restroom. It took a long time. And the smell endured in that small space caused Post-Stench Traumatic Stress Syndrome which I have now added to my ever increasing list of ailments.
Currently, I am trying to "un-potty train" my four year old. While Dr. Spock may not approve, I am not too concerned as he is not the one who has to suffer toilet visits with Mary Mac. I heart Pampers.