Wednesday, July 13, 2011

People's Restroom Habits

"Just a minute, you need to use the papers!"

Had you gone through my mother's white clutch purse in the 70's when I was growing up, you would have found something like this.

A snap case containing EMERGENCY toilet seat covers. I can see the case so clearly in my head and still hear its crinkly contents being unfolded as if it were yesterday.

Not a single butt of any of my mother's six children had EV-ER touched a bare toilet seat.  There was always a film of safety between our behinds.....and what we imagined microscopically lingered on the surface.

Alighting on this germ-laden environment, with no protective layer, we could promise you, would result in the worst case of dogscoot ever.

Durn dogscoot.
On any outing, with six of us in tow, it wouldn't be long before one of us (nine out of ten times, me) would announce, "I have to go to the bathroom!"  and off to the races it was, with my mother digging around in her purse for the bright blue package to hand us, shouting orders in her thick Spanish accent, "Rrrrememberrr tooo pooot down dee paperrrrrs! Dere arrrre sooo manies off dee gerrrrms! Make sure tooo help your leetle seester! Pongan el papel!!"

And so we would place our onion skin papers down, a ritual that had become as natural as setting a table, because we knew she was right.

If, per dreaded chance, there were none of "dee papers," well, then, instructions were clear and never to be broken. No toilet seat was to be sat upon bare nekkid. By ANY one by ANY part of the body.

You were to hover. You were to coat your hands with miles and miles of paper towels and do the hiney-hover.

By age six, I had developed killer triceps that would make any yogi master seethe with jealousy.

Whatever you have to do, do it! Just don't for the love of all that is holy touch that toilet seat!
Even if we'd all be out for a walk, and no one would have the need to relieve themselves, if my mother were to pass a sign--anywhere, gas station, storefront, restaurant--that read "CLEAN RESTROOMS," her eyes would grow wide as if she had just been blessed with a  holy vision and the paper passing would begin. "It's a clean bathroom, we must go! GO! GO!"

A clean bathroom.

I had learned to accept what my memory has filed away as "eccentricities" of my mother.

But I am now that woman. The one that is always in search of the ever elusive clean restroom.

I can't even begin to describe the level of cleanliness that a public restroom must meet,  before I will use it or allow my children to use it.

We will look and search and hunt until the color of our eyes turn yellow to find a clean bathroom before we squat or stand before a filthy toilet.

Forget gas stations.

Pffffffffffft to grungy diner rest stops.

Ain't gonna happen.

The back of an old supermarket? Puh-leez. A-1 best quality untouched by any germ butts here.

I have learned to be a bathroom snob. I can appraise a bathroom in less than  a second, and give it a raised eyebrow, or pursed lip, or sharp gasped evaluation. Based on how many huffs and puffs, or one or two eyebrows up, the children know whether to proceed or not.

We will dance the jig of leprechauns on St. Patrick's Eve and hold it like Beckham before we enter a dirty bathroom.

And Port-A-Potties?

That's when mama counts on her BFF,  StadiumGal.

Wire me up.


  1. Yep, I'm quite the freak about it too.

  2. You'll faint at the sight of Malaysian public toilets then. Not as bad as the one in the picture (that is one disgusting looking toilet bowl) but not good either. Love how you described your mom's Spanish accent - so funny!!

  3. That toilet mess picture is really disturbing, by the way. LOL.

    Our moms must have gone to the same school at some point in their lives. We didn't have those disposable seat covers where I live, so my mother always brought her own tissue papers with her. Either I use the tissue papers to form a really crafty toilet seat cover, or... (just like you), I had to hover, my mother used to say.

    The amount of muscle strength needed to do that little "hovering" act pretty much scared me off public toilets for life. Does people know the kind of exercise involved when you have to hover far enough from the toilet seat but close enough so that you don't pee outside the bowl? What's more, you gotta somehow still manage to pee (speed and strength of pee should carefully be monitored throughout the whole process to reduce the risk of dripping and dirtying your whole underwear and legs.

    I SO want to have a penis sometimes... It'll make the whole thing so much easier.

  4. That one picture? SO gross! Oh my gosh. So gross!!

    I have to need to go REALLY bad to make myself use a public restroom, and even then, it has to be REALLY clean.

  5. I am going to have nightmares about that overflowing toilet right there.

    I have a huge public toilet phobia - so much so, I have had recurring nightmares about having to endure using one. I am totally not kidding (I wish I was).

    I believe with my standards lowered (due to the lack of very clean public toilets in Malaysia), I have found that I can use some, that are slightly more acceptable whence hovering is possible.

    However, I also have immense control over my bladder, in order to avoid as much as possible the same kind of toilet you have chosen to show in this post (nightmares I tell you, nightmares!).

    I do hope that with time, I will have sharpened my public toilet assessments to Empress standards.

  6. I have a huge public toilet phobia. It made it next to impossible to leave the house while pregnant though!

  7. Huh. I have no issues with bathrooms. Truly. I mean, a little soap and water, and our hands are just as clean as before we walked in, if not more so. And if no bathroom is around? A bush, baby.

  8. This was great - made me laugh. It's amazing how much of what our mothers said to us as kids actually does sink in and then shock horror we become our mothers.

    The worst toilet I've ever seen and it resembled your first pic, was at the monkey forest in Bali. Ewgh - enough to put you off public toilets for life even with the portable paper barriers :-)

  9. hehe...that overflowing toilet is gonna give me nightmares you really....yay tracey, my thoughts exactly...smiles.

  10. I had a mom like yours...and then I moved to Europe. I have not once seen a toilet seat cover in a restroom yet! At first I made my mom proud and used my finely honed thigh hover muscles that she helped me develop over time, but then I tried to think if I had ever heard of anyone who had died of some strange butt disease received from a toilet seat. When I realized that I couldn't think of one case of toilet seat related death, I relaxed and only hovered if it was an obvious case of uncleanliness. I have probably horrified everyone with this statement and I'm sure I will hear your audible gasps from across the pond, but I don't think it's anywhere near as horrifying as that photo of the toilet! I can't imagine your google search for that photo and all the others you must have come across! Your poor eyes will probably be burning for days!

  11. Yes - my daughter was three when she started opening public doors with her shirt sleeve. Germiphobes, unite!

  12. I think I'm permanently scarred by the picture of that toilet included in this post.

  13. O.M.G!! You and I had the same momma! I'm not kidding.

    She would holler over at me and my sister while in a public restroom, "Are you hovering"? We'd obediently reply, "Yes Mom"!

    I never did. And somehow, I didn't die or catch anything horrible.

    But I can't lie, I avoid public restrooms. They are so ick! If I have to go into one, I totally assess and have actually cleaned off stuff, scrubbed hands, then gone. I just am not a good hoverer.

    Oh this made me laugh woman!!!

  14. Wait! I never thought to cover my hands to make the hover easier! This tid-bit may have opened new doors (and bathroom stalls) for me!

  15. mom2kiddos and Alison:

    You are so right. I am spoiled by America, the few times I have gone out of the USA, nary a toilet seat lid have I found.

    Believe me, trauma ensued.


    I remember wishing to be my brothers, too. Also, people here, you must follow this woman. So very funny.


    Oh, yes, that whole urgent Pee Pregnancy is a whole nother post.

    Talk about taking Toiletphobia to another level.


    It wasn't the hand stuff that freaked us out, it was the BUTT stuff!! We didn't want a caase of dogscoot!!


    You must've heard my gasps..



  16. Ah, the hover technique. Still genuinely useful to this day.

    And I have passed on the correct pose to my daughters.

    Thanks for the laugh!!

  17. That first toilet picture made me throw up in my mouth a little. Which is exactly while I will gladly hold it all day rather than use a public toilet if can...

    Where do you get those travel cases? I need one!

  18. All that talk about cleaning and cleanliness really turned me on. No need to porn-surf today. Thanks! m.

  19. awesome.


  20. Yeah...I'm not that bad but I do prefer to pick up my little girl and place her on and off the seat. Keep her little hands off.

    I'll will leave a public restroom unused if it's not decent.

    And the only way I will use a portapotty is if there is just no way to pee in the outdoors. I hate hate hate those things!!

  21. Oh my Lord! You've cured my OCD! All these long, long years I thought my restroom snobbiness was OCD at play. Bless you. I have in fact stopped in the middle of nowheres went into said dive "restroom"/storage closet, screamed in horror and left promptly, without peeing. Doesn't make for an easy 30 more miles to go holding it in the middle of Montana, but a girls gotta do, what a girls gotta do!

  22. I want you to know I was eating my Grape Nuts when I saw that picture. For the love of all things sanitary!

    And not to diminish your plight, at least you have boys, who don't have to touch anything. And they can also pee behind a tree. Three girls are a living nightmare. And not to mention their bladders are the size of thimbles. And getting them to pee behind a tree in the middle of the woods is ridiculous. You must set up a fortress akin to Fort Knox so that no one will seeeeeee them.

    I have taught them well though on the squat. They are all expert hoverers of the public toilet seat.

  23. I hope we can still be friends when you find out that I am not a germophobe.

    (am I the only one? seriously? oh wait. Tracy from Just Another Mommy Blog is on my same page. and I don't even care if I get her germs.)

    I know. I'm hardly a woman. I don't shop or care about shoes.

    I don't shower every day or worry about grooming. much.

    I DO wash my hands. But in between, I don't give a lot of thought to what I've touched.

    I have some guilt about not training my kids better.

    But I can't seem to change myself.

    That toilet picture, however?

    May have done it for me. Holy Hell. I'm having nightmares as I type.

    And I'm pretty sure I'm awake...

  24. AT LAST! A safe place to discuss my fear of public restrooms. I'm the girl who falls on her face (smack down on the cold, dirty, bathroom tiles) trying to keep a layer of paper towels between me and...EVERYTHING. Sink faucets, door handles. EVERYTHING.

  25. I remember bringing my recently toilet trained niece to a (clean) rest room and even with that, she murmured "flush with your foot..." Clearly, my sister was raising her right.

  26. I have a bladder the size of a stability ball...that means I don't have to even check the toilets out -Mind you old age is making it more essential! Yucky photograph by the way....I showed it to Hubby just before he tucked into his sandwich :)

  27. Hubby said the photo reminded him of our bathroom after Son had had a heavy duty curry one night along with several pints of lager - thank goodness he has left home. (Hubby was exaggerating of course!)

  28. Isn't it funny the things we "keep" as adults from our childhood. There are some things I never expected to keep, some I can't believe I've been able to let go of!

    That first picture of the toilet is the GROSSEST EVER.

  29. I will pee anywhere. ANYWHERE. And my friend's mom...a nurse...assures me the toilet seat in those bathrooms is WAY cleaner than the handle of the faucet or the door where everyone puts their hands. In her words? "hands are 100x dirtier than butts. Most people do not walk around with feces on their butt cheeks, but who KNOWS what is on their nasty hands. Just sit on the toilet and go, Kate."

  30. People:

    Can I tell you the phobia out mother passed on to us about toilet seats.

    I saved you a lot, I held back, had I typed this up under the influence? You'd all be leaving Costco bareshelved from its Purell.

  31. So funny! Some of the worst toilets -- where you would expect to find dencent toilets: Toys-R-Us & Borders. I always dread going in these!

  32. Oh my goodness this sounds like my family! I have thighs of steel from the hover position. I'm like you about port-a-potties too. I once went to an outdoor concert and didn't pee the entire time I was there b/c I was too grossed out by the port-a-potties.

  33. So, yes, I have a serious public toilet phobia. Probably should have been warned about that photo. OH MY GOD.
    I'm going to have nightmares.

  34. Ah, the dreaded Hover Pee-er. My mother is a hoverer and my sister is a hand sitter.

    I however HATE PEOPLE WHO DO THIS BECAUSE THEY PEE ALL OVER THE SEATS. I can't tell you how many times I go into a bathroom at a theatre, movie, airport etc and come out immediately shouting, WHO PEED ON THIS SEAT? (The culprit is usually washing her hands by now)

    It is one of my giant pet peeves. Did you know that surveys showed that women are more disgusting in a public restroom than men?

    Did you also know there are LESS germs on a toilet seat than there are on the faucets of the sinks you use to wash your hands afterwards?

    That bears repeating:
    There are LESS germs on a toilet seat than there are on the faucets of the sinks you use to wash your hands afterwards.

  35. This is hilarious! My MIL and I are in battle over the bathroom situation. She is a huge germaphobe. The covers plus layers of TP over them. And don't get me started on how much TP she feels is necessary so her hands don't get dirty wiping. I just use them and wash my hands afterwards. My girls are being doubly traumatized and confused.

  36. I am sitting here cringing and squeezing my butt for some reason.

    Porta potties - NEVER. Never. Never.

  37. I love how much you care - I have clearly gone to the bathroom places that would scar you to your soul!

  38. Your mom's accent sounded German in my head. Are you sure she is Spanish?

  39. I LOATHE PUBLIC RESTROOMS. For myself and my kids, but especially my kids, who have not yet achieved yogi status or killer triceps. They are not capable of doing the hiney hover yet. Le sigh.

  40. omg. the dogscoot? I FREAKING LOVE that!!

    The dogscoot.

    I will be giggling about that all day!

  41. I can relate to so, so much of this brilliant post.

    My mom's accent was different than your's, but the clean bathroom thang? Exactly the same.

    And port-a-pottys? Don't exist as far as I'm concerned.

    Geniusly clever, as always, dear friend.


  42. OMG! That toilet may forever haunt my nightmares! Some public restrooms are horror movie scene worthy, though. If one is too nasty I've been know to hold a kid over a toilet, no small feat sometimes. But that's only if there's no chance of another bathroom any time soon. Take it further and my hubby wouldn't take the girls in public by himself unless he had to until they could go to the bathroom unassisted and no trip to the men's room EV-ER! Less because he couldn't/wouldn't help them but more cause men's restrooms are the worst offenders. Toilet seat covers, yes. In a pinch, toilet paper works.

  43. That toilet picture...that...picture... *faints* *comes to*

    What? What happ-- *sees picture again, faints again*

    Now that that's out of the way: My mom is a total hoverer. If she knew that I am not a hoverer but am, instead, a wiper-and-paper-layer, she would probably faint like I just did.

  44. Oh god. I need to burn my eyes now....

  45. That photo made me nauseous. (shiver)

    When I was pregnant I had every clean restroom in town memorized. On our recent road trip, I came out of the ladies' room in a Subway in Alexandria, VA and declared that they must have some excellent sandwiches because the restroom was IMMACULATE. All three of my guys looked at me strangely. But when it was time for them to go? They each came out of the men's room and concurred with my earlier statement. Yes, a clean restroom makes me very happy.

  46. My child is a boy. If I didn't physically restrain him, he would roll around on a wet, public bathroom floor, oblivous to the killer microbes swarming his tiny body.

    I buy Purell by the gallon.

  47. Suzy, Suzy, Suzy:

    I hear you but I don't hear you.

    No one can convince me there are no caca germs on a toilet seat.

    No amount of combination talk therapy with meds and desensitization can convince.


    For the record, If I should, perchance, spill, I do wipe up.

    For you.

  48. If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat!

    I also do the hover. I don't deal with the whole paper thing, because that would make me take longer in the bathroom and then I couldn't be done before my husband and go, "Jeez, took you long enough!"

  49. A clean public bathroom is a beautiful thing indeed....

  50. I won't lie, I am public potty phobic. I won't pop a squat anywhere but my own home. And if it's an absolute must I perform the hover because the germs can break through toilet paper. I'm certain of it.

  51. I am giggling. There was a time I had to take Abbey into a port-a-potty. I (literally) cried and held her so far above that seat I might as well not have gone inside. We were at the beginning of potty training, and it was the only option.

  52. That picture of the exploded sewage toilet will haunt me until the end of days. As a serious germaphobe that is one of my worst nightmares! Excuse me now, I have to go take a shower.
    (and I totally make my son hover, frankly, if I had my way he'd wear pull ups in public forever so we'd never have to go to a public restroom)

  53. I am the same way! Although I didn't grow up with parents who cared much about gross bathrooms, with age, I became obssessed with clean bathrooms. I hope to pass down my obsessive nature about public bathrooms and all bathrooms in general to my children. That will be my legacy to them, I think. hehehe.

  54. I'm laughing so much at the word DOGSCOOT!!
    THAT is hilarious!

  55. I totally relate to this post. Because I was that kid and now I that mom. I went to the zoo today, and my daughter had to use the bathroom at least once an hour. Due to the amount of paper it takes to cover the toiled each time, I am pretty sure there is a gaping whole in some forest.

  56. That toilet picture is... haunting, to say the least. Is it bad that I actually have nightmares about desperately walking down the row of toilet stalls seeing toilets in various stages of disgusting overflow, never able to find that one that is, at the very least, flushed? Understand, these are RECURRING nightmares. Yeah, I have a thing about dirty public restrooms, too.

  57. All I remember hearing is her yelling "ponga papel!" in front of EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  58. Oh my gosh, Yes.

    "Put down the paper!"

    Memory blasts.

    Love you,girl..

  59. I am ashamed to admit that any one of the bathrooms in my home, could make raise an eyebrow, or purse your lips, or gasp sharply. I blame it on blogging. I used to be a neat freak, and would have appreciated the contents of your mother's purse.
    This was awesome though, I'm still giggling at the mental visual of you hovering above the toilet seat lest your derriere touch down!

  60. Isn't it amazing how we become our mothers?

    (that toilet? ick)

  61. This sounds exactly like my childhood...and now exactly like me. Although, I was informed the other day that I'd been putting the toilet seat cover on backwards all this time. I didn't realize there was a "correct" way to do it.

  62. I know the location of every restroom in our town and exactly what standard they meet. Old supermarket? You Are Right!

    But this especially tickled me because my 17 year old began working at a restaurant last year and one of her jobs is cleaning restrooms. She has become a 'cleanliness cop'. Every restroom we go in gets a running critique on how well maintained it is-or not! I guess her motto would be: My toilet seats are so clean you can Sit On Them ; )

  63. Hahahaa. See I've never had much of a problem with public bathrooms. You know, until I saw that picture.

  64. LOVE THIS! I kind of get hysterical in public toilets with my kids ... 'Don't touch anything DON'T TOUCH!!!'

    I will NEVER forget cas a child, coming to America the first time and seeing the toilet seat covers. Struck gold, I tell you. XOX

  65. This. Was. Awesome.

    Start to finish. Awesome.

  66. This is hilarious. I have also become a fan of the bird's nest over the years; never squat over a public toilet without one! :)

    That said, I have grown accustomed to port-a-potties over the years. Not a fan, but they help in a jiff. Holy hiney hover! Do you do this?! Color me very impressed.

  67. I was the only one of my friends not put out out by the long drop in the floor in some European cities ... since I had no intentions of placing my derriere anywhere near a seat anyway!

  68. That picture of the toilet will haunt me forever. Oh, Empress...

  69. Oh my gosh, you all are making me laugh.

    Due to the psychological trauma I've brought on with that toilet picture, I am so glad I 2nd and 22nd guessed myself and did NOT use the butt rash google image picture originally pondered.


    I'd be receiving live tweets from shrink offices as we speak/blog/whatever.

  70. Oh, totally forgot about the hurdler Foot Flush we were taught.


    Vital piece of info.

  71. Okay, that first picture almost made me puke.

    And I think we all already know how screwed up I am about this stuff, so I'll just shut up here.

  72. Oh my word! That is exactly how my mother taught us! Oh and the get paper towels to turn on and off the faucets too.

    Sigh. I do not look forward to potty training cause I know that is gonna be me freaking out about clean bathrooms. And btw...nasty picture of the toilet. Gotta say I gagged a little

  73. Did I mention my mother and brothers actually hung my bare-ass out the sliding door of our 1969 Volkswagon van when I was 7 on a trip up to Frisco while we were on the freeway doing 50 mph for me to pee bc they got sick of stopping for me? They were quite surprised when my flood of urine flew right back in their faces. Revenge is sweet.

  74. Oh my good god this was funny. And do I even want to know what a StadiumGal is? I don't think so.

    My parents were the exact opposite. My siblings and I look back with absolute disgust at the lack of hygiene knowledge passed down in my house.

  75. Hot damn - CONGRATULATIONS!!!! You so deserve that.

    And thank you again for nominating me - wow.

    You rule!! Bask in it, baby!!



  76. Ok lady germophobes I'll tell you about something about life at the urinal. Sometimes you have to worry about a little "blow back."

    I guarantee that some of your young boys have left their post at the urinal with a little something extra. It is probably not noticeable, but it happens sometimes. Or at least I heard that it does.

  77. Luckily, with boys, you can take 'em out back to pee on a tree...

  78. I'm pretty sure the reason the line for the ladies' room is always so long is because there are never any toilet seat covers so the women are carefully layering toilet paper around the seat.

  79. I am now singing "Mr. Protecto" in my head to the tune of "Mr Roboto," (you remember the band Styx, you know you do). So thanks for that. Most of the time, I confess, I wish that at least one of my two sons were daughters. There. I said it. EXCEPT when we're out in the world and they've got to pee. I am the mom who says, just go over there in the bushes, or behind that car, or in the alley...So yeah, mine will be the frat boy assholes pissing against a wall outside a bar, so I apologize for that in advance. On the upside, though, we never ever EVER will have to encounter a toilet like that one.

  80. I was taught to put strips of TP on the seat and then hover...ay, dios mio.

    I take big chances now and just sit! Maybe I am being a rebel to all that cubanidad...but after seeing that toilet seat photo, I may hover the rest of my life.

  81. The handles in women's restrooms are replaced at about 10 times the rate than they are in men's restrooms. The reason? So many women flush with their feet.

    I read a very interesting exchange between Gene Weingarten & Gina Barecca where Gene mentioned that men's pants might hit the bathroom floor when they're doing something that act that would require them to pull down their pants. Gina was absolutely horrified.

    And about that yoga pose? Maybe it's because I'm a guy, and therefore the "splatter" is a little different, but I'd worry more about putting my hands on the floor of a public restroom than I'd worry about my cheeks on the seat.

  82. I, too, like you, am your mother. There should be a list, like on the Internet, of the cleanest public restrooms in any given local area. Or vice versa. Thereby relieving the stress of mamas like us everywhere. And keep me from freaking out my children every time they touch a toilet handle or seat - by accident, that is.

  83. My restroom status like many cool people here: Hoverer. My kids cannot, however, hover like me... and since I have not yet found a shop that sells toilet seat covers, I am forced to use toilet paper to line the seat for their little tushies.

    They have watched me hover in all varieties of stinky public toilets and cannot wait for the Day when they get taller and can hover like me in style.

    The worst situation I have been in is having had to hover in a disgusting toilet, with my baby clutching on to me for dear life in a sling.

  84. I don't even use public restrooms. I have built my bladder to go off when I reach a safe destination. LOL, I wash off the seat if I cannot hold it when I am in someone's house but I know not to sit my booty on a public restroom. No way in hell.

  85. I actually, truly, seriously might throw up after seeing that picture. OH EM GEE. Barf!

    Also, I know. My son is 3 and he touches everything. Heebie jeebies!

  86. I don't like/use public restrooms or port a potties. It's been super hard recently with a 3 year old who has to immediately use the potty when she says she needs to go. We have been carrying a potty in the car and a plastic seat cover(washable) with us when we just can't make it to the car.
    I almost want to say ..."just go in your diapers" sometimes(: so much easier and so much cleaner. And why does she have to touch every thing she sees?

    I ran a marathon last year and refused to use the por a potty before during or after. When I got home my bladder was in as much pain as my legs. (:

  87. haahahaahah! that was awesome. my girls must put down lots of the papers. not just one.

    once, my daughter asked me if it was a waste to use so much paper. and i said. it is never a waste if you use it on your bottom.


  88. I have to pee so much and so often that I have sometimes used bathrooms that I cannot think about later, because of the horror. I'd like an amnesia pill, please.

    I do judge places by their bathrooms, and am seriously considering a blog on bathrooms I have visited.



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