I promise I’d planned on writing this post before the recent news that Starbucks is going to crack down on public use of their restrooms came out and sparked some discussions about the dearth of proper public restrooms and the overall crappiness of Starbucks commodes. But hey, now I guess I’m just timely.
So, while I don’t have an actual condition such as overactive bladder, I do think my bladder’s on the active end of the “normal” spectrum. Also, my high school track coach ruined me for life when he told our team that by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Impressionable teenage me took this to heart and I’ve been obsessed with staying hydrated ever since ““ even after a knee injury and other ravages of time cut my running career short.
I have a glass or bottle of water within arm’s reach at all times, including when I’m in bed. The first thing I do when I wake up is pound a pint of water, which I then follow up with another post-shower pint. Throw in a cup of regular coffee and I pretty much have a constant need to pee for the first few hours of my morning.
Which is how the lower limits of what I’m willing to tolerate in a public bathroom have recently been put to the test. A few months ago, I took a new job for more money (which is good!) but that entailed a much longer commute (which is bad!). We’re talking multiple train transfers, two 10-minute walks, and about 75 minutes door to door travel time. How’s an over-hydrated, under-bladdered woman supposed to endure that journey without needing to go to the bathroom? She doesn’t, that’s how.
And so I find myself, almost every morning, using the abomination that is the commuter-train restroom. I’m not sure I have adequate words to describe how terrible the bathrooms on the train are, but let me paint a picture of what I saw this morning. There was a picture of a plucky young brunette on the floor that was actually an ad that had somehow peeled from the main area of the train and adhered to the floor of the bathroom. Anyway, this is my life. Peeing there, trying not to touch anything, and struggling to keep my balance against the unpredictable lurching of the train. It’s enough to make one re-examine one’s life choices. How did I get here? you ask yourself, as you smear Purell over every inch of exposed skin. Where did I go wrong?
But the truth is, this isn’t even the worst of the commuter-train bathrooms. This is a “new” train; while I can’t date the older model trains, I can say they weren’t new when I was in high school. And that was well over a decade ago. Sometimes on the old cars, the bathroom is just a hole in a cardboard box. Instead of toilet paper, they just have a little dish filled with wood shavings, like you’d use to line a hamster cage. I may or may not be kidding about this.
The even truthier truth is that these train bathrooms aren’t even the worst places I’ve peed. One of the quirks of urban living is that we have managed, as a society, to create things dirtier than nature. Like, dirtier than dirt. Which is why the woods is not the worst place I’ve peed. (Getting back to my running days, I’d always pick woods peeing to using the poor, overused port-a-potties that smelled like refuse, chemicals, and shame.) I’ve peed in places that didn’t even deserve the word bathroom, restroom, or, if you will, tinkle-dinkle-ha-ha room. It’s not that I’m not worried about germs, or that I don’t have any standards as to where I’ll hover my precious rump.
Actually, wait, that is exactly it. I have no standards. If I have to pee, I’ll pretty much pee anywhere. I’ve peed at gas stations that you probably didn’t think had bathrooms. (They always have a bathroom. You just have to ask nicely, take a key, and risk the journey around to the back of the building. And be OK with that other door.) I’ve peed in frat house bathrooms that had a clear plastic shower curtain instead of a door. I’ve peed in a bar bathroom that had two inches of standing water throughout.
I have no regrets. As long as I have my hand sanitizer nearby, I’m all good. Besides, what’s my alternative? Drinking slightly less water? Ha!