Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bathroom humor

I remember my first potty chair. My folks had a '57 Chevy BelAir and I remember sitting on the floor of the front seat on a red and white striped potty chair shaped something like a bongo drum. It had a lid and traveled in the car on the long trip to Jeff City. I can't have been very old and I have no idea why that memory survives after 50 some years. When you see photographs from your youth, one can never be sure one isn't remembering the image, not the event. But I am sure no photos exist of that potty chair. So the memory must be true.

Our new house had two bathrooms, the pink one and the yellow one. Laura and I had the pink one in the hallway; the yellow one was in the master bedroom. I never have been able to sleep through the night and I dreaded the visit to the pink bathroom at night because of the spiders. I tried with all my might to avoid looking at the bathtub drain because I knew a spider would be there and then I would feel duty bound to cope with it. Washing it down the drain was a touch me not procedure, but there was always the chance the spider would leap out of the tub in panic mode and run up my arm.

Laura and I were tasked from a young age with cleaning the bathrooms as our part of housework. I always cleaned the yellow one because she didn't want to clean the scum from the soap dishes. I could be both careless and forgetful of my chores as a kid, but that was my father's bathroom and I never skimped on the attention I paid to cleaning the soap dishes or anything else for his sake.

My parents shot target practice at a gun range not far away. It must have been a very male place. There was not only a paucity of plumbing, but not even an outhouse.

The public restrooms at Marshall Field and Carson Pirie Scott in downtown Chicago were luxurious with black marble stalls.

The public restrooms at the bus station or at Union Station had pay stalls and free stalls. We always took our chances with the free stalls. Up to a few years ago, there were also pay stalls at KCI. We also saw public pay toilets in Ireland. Without getting into a discussion of rights and privileges, it seems strange to me that price discrimination is still allowed to exist in the toilet market.

The toilets on the passenger trains opened right onto the tracks. It was impossible not to look. For years, I assumed the same procedure applied to planes.

I have been at events where, as Lyle Lovett says, 'they were handing out towels in the washroom for a quarter.'

Our friends in South Dakota had no indoor plumbing at their cabin in the Black Hills, but they had the most charmingly painted clean little outhouse I had ever encountered.

We are probably fortunate. I don't know where the "dirty water" went from our little house in the bottom. However, I do know the pump for our well sat right under the back porch with the washing machine. They could hardly have avoided each other.

On a similar note, guests at my granny and grandpa's house frequently got sick while visiting. Granny and Grandpa had a cistern for their drinking water and finally, years later, got around to testing it for cleanliness. It wasn't. None of us ever got sick. Maybe we were tough; maybe we never drank the water! My grandparents were obviously acclimated.

We stayed in a motel in Utah with a shower that was the size of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was hard to leave. I have no desire to possess one of those sybaritic retreats the size of Olympic training facilities in my real life. However, this experience was akin to standing under a temperature controlled waterfall in some isolated forest glade.

The day we were to take Ben home from the hospital, I got my very first experience with changing a little boy's diaper. It was another kind of shower and I was such a happy mom, I laughed when it happened. After that I got more coordinated whipping the new diaper into place. Before Lee was born, I toyed with the notion of using the "real thing" instead of disposable diapers. HA! One change of newborn poopie and all that inclination went by the wayside. Never looked back either.

Is this an appropriate subject for a blog? Well, considering the amount of time spent and the universality of the focus, I think so. We choose our homes, our theaters, our rest stops with the bathrooms in mind. Sometimes I think Ann quit accompanying us on family vacations out West due to the lack of water based plumbing. I know the seasoned truckers at Hurst Greenery make their stops based on coffee and the men's restroom. Some bathrooms have phones, some great smelling hand lotion. Bathrooms in the British Virgin Islands have trash cans. Amenities are one thing; toilet paper and hand soap are civilization. But if you could throw in a heated towel rack?....

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