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You know that feeling. Almost everyone has experienced it.
It happened to me recently in a Wilmington mall. I was walking along shopping, minding my own business, when my bladder sent a message to my brain saying, “Hey, you shouldn’t have slurped up that big ol’ Sprite.”
I tried to ignore my bladder, but it was eventually screaming, “The tsunami is coming.” I knew I had to take action. I was in a nice department store and headed for the nearest ladies room.
Upon entering the restroom my nostrils were assailed by a noxious odor—a combination of stale cigarette smoke, overwhelming floral perfume and dirty diapers.
I pulled my shirt over my nose and mouth so I could complete my mission, but I soon found out the odor was the least of my problems. This restroom had serious issues.
Used paper towels overflowed from the trash can onto the floor. Toilet paper—that appeared to be used—was rolled around the floor in the stalls of two bathrooms. The toilet was overflowing in the third stall, and the last stall was a health hazard.
Babies didn’t have it any easier—the changing table was filthy and there was a dirty diaper on the floor. Thankfully, my son was not along for the trip and did not have to be subjected to the germ-laden changing area.
This is not the first time I have seen such a scenario. It is typical of many public restrooms. Sometimes when I’m out, I try not to drink anything just so I won’t have to use a filthy restroom.
When I see facilities that dirty it makes me wonder how they get that way. Usually it starts with one person.
One nasty person dries his or her hands and misses the trash can when they throw their paper towels away. Instead of picking them up, they leave it there to rot. Then someone else comes in—they are in too much of a hurry to flush the toilet.
Then the next person comes in and sees the mess left by the first two people. He or she doesn’t want to get near it, so they stand 6 feet away from the toilet when trying to use it (we all know what happens then.
Upon exiting, he or she will use a paper towel to open the door, which they throw on the floor to avoid cross-contamination by re-entering the room to use the trash can.
After a couple of hours, the restroom looks as though it needs to be condemned by the health department. I was expecting to see people in HazMat suits raid and shut down the one I encountered during my recent mall visit.
Vandalism is another sad yet common, characteristic of many public restrooms.
You always have the favorite phrases like “For a good time callee” or “Kate loves Sawyer.” Those phrases I am used to, but I really hate the ones that say, “Mary was here.” That always leaves me asking, “Who the heck is Mary, and why do I care?”
A few months ago I noticed some graffiti on the inside of a stall that said, “John was here.” I was the only person in the room.
Was I in the ladies room? I frantically ran to the sink and started washing my hands. I almost broke my leg trying to get out of there, and when I finally did I looked at the sign on the door. It said “women.”
Now the question is, “What the heck was John doing in that bathroom anyway?”
Unfortunately, I believe I am cursed with the world’s tiniest bladder and often find myself having to make pit stops. If I leave from Shallotte heading to Durham, I usually will have to stop two or three times.
Luckily, I have learned some of the better places to stop along I-40. But there are those times when I try somewhere new only to find that new is not always improved.
RENEE SLOAN is a staff writer and page designer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.