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The Ladies Room
aka Public Toilets

My mother was a fanatic about public toilets. As a little girl she'd bring me into the stall, teach me to wad up toilet paper and wipe the seat. Then, she'd carefully lay strips of toilet paper to cover the seat.

Finally, she'd instruct, "Never, never sit on a public toilet seat."

She would demonstrate "The Stance," which consisted of balancing over the toilet in a sitting position without actually letting any of your flesh make contact with the seat.

By this time I'd have wet down my leg and we went home.

That was a long time ago. Even now, in our more mature years, the "Stance" is excruciatingly difficult to maintain when one's bladder is especially full.

When you have to go in a public restroom you find a line of women that make you think there is a half- price sale on Nelly's underwear in there.

So you wait and smile politely at all the other ladies, also smiling and crossing their legs politely. Finally you get closer.

You check for feet under the stall doors. Every one is occupied. Finally a stall door opens and you dash, nearly knocking down the woman leaving the stall.

You get in to find the door doesn't latch. It doesn't matter.

You hang your purse on the door hook, yank down your pants and assume the "Stance." Relief. More relief.

Then your thighs begin to shake. You'd love to sit down, but you certainly didn't take time to wipe the seat or lay toilet paper on it, so you hold the "Stance" until your thighs experience a quake that would register eight on the Richter scale.

To take your mind off it, you reach for the toilet paper. The toilet paper dispense is empty. Your thighs shake more.

You remember the tiny tissue you blew your nose on that is in your purse. It would have to do. You crumple it in the "fluffiest" way possible. It is still smaller than your thumbnail.

Someone pushes open your stall door because the latch doesn't work and your purse whams you in the head.

"Occupied" you scream as you reach for the door, dropping your tissue in a puddle and falling back, directly on the toilet seat.

You get up quickly. But it is too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with all the germs and life forms on the bare seat because YOU never laid down any toilet paper, not that there was any, even if you had time to.

Your mother would be utterly ashamed of you if she knew, because her bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because frankly, "You never knew what kind of diseases you could get."

By this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused that it flushes, sending up a stream of water akin to a fountain and then it suddenly sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged to China.

At that point you give up. You're soaked by the splashing water. You're exhausted. You try to wipe with a Chick paper that you found in your pocket, then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks.

You can't figure out how to operate the sinks with the automatic sensors, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past a line of women, still waiting, cross-legged and unable to smile at this point.

One kind soul at the very end of the line points out that you are trailing a piece of toilet paper on your shoe as long as the Mississippi River.

You yank the paper from your shoe, plunk it into the woman's hand and say warmly, "Here. You might need this."

At this time you see your man, who has entered, used and exited his bathroom and read a copy of "War and Peace" while waiting for you.

"What took you so long?" he asks, annoyed.

This is when you kick him sharply in the shins and go home.

This is dedicated to all women everywhere who have ever had to deal with public toilets and also to all men who have ever wondered why it took so long.

This is what actually happens in a Ladies Restroom. All of you men think that women are having a pleasant time in there - that's why they stay so long.

No way!


We recently received this response from the author:

I've just been directed to your website and was thrilled to see that a version of part of one of my letters to an American friend was printed there.

I'm frequently told that I always write hugely entertaining letters to family and friends from wherever I've lived in the world, and wrote 'The Ladies Room' (although it didn't have a title back then) many years ago after spending 3 years in Moscow and after a welcome break in the UK, 3 years in Bucharest.

The public toilets in both countries left a lot to be desired (bit of an understatement to say the least) and being the person I am, made excellent writing material.

'The Ladies Room', in it's original form was written way back in the 1990's and was primarily about a visit to a truly terrible Romanian toilet situated just outside an incredibly beautiful Othodox monastery. It brought to mind my mum's teachings and the humour of the whole situation was immediate.

I am so happy to see that the tale is still bringing a smile into people's lives, even if it has changed slightly over the years.

Thank you so much both for the memories AND for putting a smile on my face.

Sincerely,
Valerie Guest (Mrs)



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