Oh, the Places I’ve Peed!

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!

8 replies on “Oh, the Places I’ve Peed!”

Peeing in the ‘wild’ (aptly called wildplassen ‘wild peeing’ in Dutch) is a family thing for my mum and me. Besides that, my bladder is very eager to shout ‘But when will there will be another possibility to pee!’ at me before leaving the house. I pee when nervous, so yes, I am a serial pisser. There could be worse things, right?

Yeah I was reading some comments on this same topic elsewhere and I guess I just don’t get it.  Pee before I leave my house in the mornings.  Pee when I get to work 30 minutes later.  If I go out to a restaurant – by law in my state any place that serves food must have a rest room – then pee there.   Pee before leaving work on the commute home, etc. 

An extra-long commute I understand, sure – you gotta pee sometime.   But where on earth is everyone going out on the world that finding a restroom is a problem?  Out shopping?  Sightseeting?    When doing car trips have you no rest stop areas?

Maybe this is a big-city problem only?

When sightseeing in unfamiliar places, it can be difficult to find a public restroom. Lots of cities actually have them available in their main drags (like, city restrooms that are open 24/7; my city has one), but people don’t often know about them. It’s not finding a bathroom that is difficult, it’s finding one open to the non-paying public. Many restaurants and shops will not allow people to use restrooms unless they are customers. Which I think is bogus, because how are you going to tell someone they can’t pee, but it has happened to me many times. I once had to threaten an old lady at a gas station with peeing right on her floor if she did not allow me access to her bathroom. And when driving in more remote areas of the country (U.S.), there are many times when there aren’t rest areas for hundreds of miles. Or anything else, for that matter. I am a seasoned roadtripper, and I managed to just barely avoid answering the call of nature in the Arizona desert by wondrously happening upon the lone gas station for miles and miles around.

I sort of agree with you.  I don’t get the outrage directed at privately-owned businesses for not wanting non-paying customers to utilize their toilet paper/soap/paper towels/plumbing.  I think it’s sort of a NYC problem.  Most people don’t take regular road trips and most towns are not tourist destinations.  This is being made out to be a public issue and it just isn’t.

From having worked in retail, I can tell you that letting people use your restrooms when you have no public restroom isn’t as easy as it seems, and it’s not just the person being an asshole. Most non-department stores in malls don’t have bathrooms. Mall bathrooms are gross. People would always ask to use our (non-public) bathroom. While I sympathize with the need to pee, the bathroom was in the stockroom. Which meant that an employee has to escort the (non)customer, because now you’re in a non-public area with lots of stealable stock, wait for them to do their business, ecsort them back out, then deal with whatever mess they left (and they always left a mess). So you have an employee off the floor, which is impossible if you’re a one-employee kind of store, plus added cleaning, plus worrying about liability because if that person got somehow hurt in your stockroom, corporate would find out, and your ass would be done. So, it’s not always about the person being a jerk. Sometimes you need to suck it up and use the gross public mall bathroom.

I have a horrible bladder and I walk a lot, so I’ve peed in alleys and in some poor guy’s yard (in Portland, kind of in view of a busy street) and on the side of a church building once (I stopped there assuming it’d be open because I thought churches were ALWAYS OPEN!) and during a 5 mile race (that’s under 45 minutes that I couldn’t hold it) and on multiple college campuses and within a block of home and… yup. So yeah, moral of my story: I feel you. I am everyone’s worst enemy on road trips.

I’ve used an honest-to-goodness outhouse. I’ve peed in a cow shed, and behind many a bush on my family’s farmland. The old customer bathrooms at my last job probably violated about a dozen health codes; I tried to avoid them at all costs but sometimes I couldn’t get to the employee one for some reason. They smelled so bad we only made people we didn’t like (or who had nasty B.O.) work near them.

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