Last week I saw a commercial that stirred up a bitterness that apparently has been lying dormant inside me for the past several years. I’ll tell about the commercial later. First, some history. My children are afraid of public restrooms. They will go in there, very cautiously, but oftentimes after a quick inspection, will immediately and frantically start doing their best to convince me that they really don’t have to pee-pee, they can hold it until they get home, they need to go find daddy–anything to get them out of there. Why? It all falls back on whether there’s a handle or not. They examine the toilet, looking for the beloved handle that reassures them that this potty is not going to flush while they’re sitting on it, therefore there is absolutely no chance of them being sucked into the abyss that surely awaits down that tiny hole. I don’t know how many times one of them has been sitting on a potty with an automatic flush, only to have it flush while they’re sitting on it and they then come flying up off that potty midstream, jumping into my arms so that I can save them from the horrible beast that is an automatic-flushing-potty. These are not mess-free experiences. I learned from someone that if I hold my hand over the sensor, then it won’t flush until I remove my hand. So I started doing that. So now you have all of us girls crammed into one stall (they refuse to go in the stall by themselves when it’s this horrid kind of potty), with me trying to stand bent halfway over top of the potty blocking the sensor while one girl after another takes her turn, only removing my hand after the last girl has finished, redressed, and they all three have left the stall. Throw a preggy belly into the mix, and surely you can feel my back pain.
Then, upon exiting the stall, we are often faced with another dilemma. Automatic hand dryers. Oh yes. These are every bit as scary as the automatic flushers. After all, can you guarantee my terrified little kiddos that sticking their tiny hands under something as loud and obnoxious as that will not result in loss of life or limb? If you can, please come do so because I have thus far been unsuccessful. Some of the dryers are no louder than a hair dryer, and they have learned to somewhat tolerate these tamer machines as long as I don’t make them go near. But then you have these new, macho, hand dryers. You know, the ones that you can hear from outside the bathroom before you even open the door. The gas station that has become a routine stop on our journeys to and from Somerset has not only automatic flushes, but also these monstrous hand dryers. Last week, we were there and I had finally finished the potty rounds, stretched the kinks somewhat out of my back, and hauled each kid up to the sink to wash their hands (the sinks being too high for children to reach is another pet peeve, but unrelated to this topic so I’ll let it go. For now.). We then looked around for the paper towels. Unsuccessfully. In some bathrooms you have a choice between towel or automation, but not this one. And a lady was using the dryer, so they were already holding their ears and beginning to panic. I leaned down and told them to just shake their hands off, when Catherine looked up at me with terror in her eyes, and said, “Mommy, please don’t make me put my hands under there!!!” No doubt she had visions of her arms getting sucked up into who knows where, and, being understandably partial to her precious little hands, she really wanted to keep them!
So the grumbles have been building up inside me for awhile, but I haven’t really thought about where to direct them. Enter the new commercial. Lysol has now come out with an automatic soap dispenser for the home. They claim that germs can build up on the handle of the soap dispenser and get your precious, germ-free kiddos sick. Seriously? Isn’t the whole point of pumping the soap dispenser so that you can then wash all the germs off of your hands? Are the germs on the handle of the soap immune from the scrubbing that immediately follows their deposit on your hands? As I digested this crazy new invention, I remembered snippets from bathroom trips past: the lady who got her paper towels before she washed her hands, then awkwardly held it under her arm as she washed her hands so that she wouldn’t have to touch the paper towel handle with clean hands; watching people open the stall door then awkwardly do a high kick sort of thing so that they can flush with their foot instead of touching the flush handle; watching people kick the bathroom door open so that they don’t have to touch it after they washed their hands; watching people break into a sweat trying to work the faucets and handles with their elbows.
Haven’t we gone a little overboard on the germaphobia? Use the bathroom, wash your hands, and go on with your life. When you leave the restroom, don’t you immediately start touching stuff again? I realize that the bathroom is typically a germy place, but everything else in the store is covered with germs too, and people open the drink cases in the gas station as soon as they come out of the bathroom, and I’d like to see them do that with their elbows! My point is this: we cannot eliminate germs, and we cannot provide a germ-free environment for ourselves or our children. So be smart, be sensible, wash your hands without obsessing about it, and quit turning bathrooms into preschool torture chambers!!!
(My apologies if I’ve offended any readers who found themselves described in these paragraphs. It’s the back pain from bending over to block the sensors on the toilet that makes me speak like this. And may I just add that on the way home today, I passed that gas station right up because I just didn’t feel like punishing my kids that way. The bathrooms where my kids walk in and excitedly exclaim, “There’s a handle, there’s a handle!! Mommy, this potty has a handle!” and then promptly all three go in their own stall and complete their potty trip all by themselves–those are the establishments that get my repeat business. Just saying.)