Long before the advent of toe-tapping senators in airport lavatories, hyper-vigilant mothers and grandmothers across the land were arming children against the insidious perils of public bathrooms. Reams of toilet paper were strategically draped over the seat before I was permitted to plunk my little bottom down, and when I was considered old enough to go into a stall unaccompanied, I entered to a hissed chorus of “Don’t touch the seat!” along with instructions to not actually sit down. For years I hovered, afraid of wet spots and amorphous germs. I’m sure my benevolent protectors would be thrilled to know that space-agey, self-cleaning public facilities may be coming soon to a city near you.
With all this experience behind me (no pun intended!), I figured I was prepared for The Adventures of Young Boys in Bathrooms. I was ready for anything: I used the old toilet-tissue-on-the-seat trick, repeated the same exhortations not to touch anything, and corralled my sons in front of me where I could scrutinize and control their every move. This, of course, all took place in the Ladies’ Room – whenever we were out and one of them started doing that wiggly dance, I moved our entourage to the nicest Ladies’ Lounge that could be found within a reasonable distance. That way, I could be in total control.
For some reason, my husband did not seem to possess the same foresight when it came to public lavatories. It may actually have been more that he didn’t have enough experience with our kids in potentially treacherous territory. Whatever the reason, he was party to a hilarious episode in a fast food restroom. At least it’s hilarious in retrospect – at the time, I thought I might have to call 911 to make sure he didn’t have a heart attack.
In the midst of our meal, Pennybags, who was about two at the time, said he needed to use the potty, and Jerry decided to save time by taking both kids at once. I was luxuriating in the freedom of being able to sit and enjoy my meal uninterrupted, and also thought that since he was their dad – and a guy! – he’d certainly understand the kind of precautions he’d need to take, and I let them go without any warnings.
They seemed to be in there for quite a while, but knowing how long it sometimes takes kids who are distracted, I didn’t think too much about it. When they finally arrived back at the table, however, Jerry looked completely undone, but somehow managed to squeak out, “How do you do this???”
Turns out that when everyone had finished their business, Jerry herded them over to the sink to wash up. Or at least he thought he did. Blissfully unaware of the hazards lurking close by, he was washing his hands, when from a few feet away came the high-pitched voice of Pennybags asking, “Dad, what’s this?” Jerry turned to see the little tyke holding up a well-used naptha cake from one of the urinals.
Somehow Jerry kept his wits about him enough to fling the offending object into the trash and scrubbed Pennybags’ germy little mitts about ten times. He grabbed our other kid to wash his hands a few times (just in case), telling Pennybags, “You stay right here!” Scrub, scrub, scrub. Dry, dry, dry. Two down, just himself to go – almost in the home stretch. Any mother can tell you, though, this is when you really need to keep your guard up. The dark horse is likely to be sneaking up right beside you.
Jerry had turned his attention to the business of disinfecting his own hands, when he looked down to check whether Pennybags was close by. Sure enough, the little fellow was right next to him… quietly slurping a puddle of soapy water off the dirty countertop!