Public restrooms. Yuck! Am I right? Some people go to great lengths to avoid entering them, and one of those people is my dad. And it’s no wonder. When we were kids, at a gas station pit stop, my brother, who was 6 at the time, had to go. He really had to go. So my dad dutifully brought him into the most disgusting bathroom to ever exist and convinced him it was far better than number 2 in the pants. He went, caught a rash called impetigo, which spread from his bum to my knees in the sibling bath. Then it spread from my knees to 3 of my friend’s knees in a tire swing. It was the bathroom trip that kept on giving. My dad has been against public restrooms since, and who could blame him?

But, when you have toddlers, you become familiar with the inside of public restrooms. You have their locations on your radar anywhere you go. You are the pitcher, and public restrooms are the base runners. You are aware of them in your peripheral, weary of their existence. You occasionally have to throw a child their way.

Besides having to teach your child how to use a public restroom (lots of “don’t touch anything!”s and “let’s play a game called learn-how-to-go-potty-without-touching-anything!”s and, for men, “no, that thing in the urinal is not a free toy” and “seriously, don’t touch anything!”s)—besides all of that fun, children add a whole new layer of the public restroom experience—human interaction.

We as a culture have agreed that we will pretend that the other people in the room do not exist. We don’t see, don’t hear, don’t say anything. We operate in our separate bubbles, getting in and out, quiet and robotic. Children have signed no such agreement. They are aliens from another world—and the most foreign concept to that world is privacy.

We should have known. We should have believed Walter III (husband Wally’s dad) when he told the story of husband Wally as a boy in a bathroom, washing his hands, hearing gas passed in a stranger’s stall, saying, “OOO OOO OOO!” You know what they say, “the sins of the father” and all that. He should have expected it when, 30 years later, Wally 5, in the exact same hand-washing scenario in his booming voice, said, “That guy tooted.”

And while he is hyper aware of the other people in the restroom (at 2, he asked me “What’s her name?” “Who?” I asked. He replied: “The lady washing her hands.”  I said, “I don’t know, another shopper.” He pressed on, “I know, what’s her name?”); Vivvi seems to be the opposite. She ignores that others are in the bathroom to a fault. I brought her with me into a stall recently, and she gave the long line of silent women outside the door a play-by-play in her little munchkin voice.

“What are you doing, Mommy? You going potty? Whup, you pulled your pants down. Oh, now what you doing? You peeing? There it goes! Ew, yucky! You done now? Okay, wiping? Why you flushing with your feet?”

I put on my sunglasses, my hat, and my hood, exited the stall with my face down, and replied, “Let me tell you a little story about impetigo…”

Photo Credit: Davezilla was taken via Compfight cc

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