When You Have to Go

It seems ironic to me, all this furor over who can or cannot use a woman’s restroom. At any public event, there are long lines for the women’s, and nary a soul near the men’s. Even in not so crowded places, there is often a line for the women’s. When Jeff and I traveled together, he would stand watch as I used the empty men’s restroom while a line of women eyed me in appalled envy. Even now, in an emergency, I have sneeked into an empty men’s restroom. (If anyone saw me as I left, I’d glance back at the door on my way out, do a double take, and give him a sheepish smile.)

In recent months, during my (so far) 9,000 mile trek, I have used a variety of restrooms and non-rooms. Public restrooms, too many to count. Bathrooms in people’s houses. Campground facilities. Pit toilets. Port-a-potties. Bushes. The verge of a deserted desert road. Yogurt containers. (The best piece of tent camping advice I ever received was from another woman. She suggested I take a quart yogurt container into the tent for late night emergencies. The container easily contours to fit, and the cover made it spill proof.)

In all my travels, the only time I have ever seen a man stand in line to use a restroom was in a gas station convenience store that had only a single bathroom for all comers.

I have been in public restrooms so filthy, I couldn’t bear to touch any part of them or even take a single breath. (In one case, I wanted to go behind the building, figuring it would be a heck of a lot cleaner, but I didn’t want to give a peepshow to the grungy looking folk hanging around. In that particular instance, I was on my way to the strange folk in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I should have taken it as a sign, and kept going north.)

The weirdest restroom I was in had a toilet and a urinal, a condom machine with girly pictures and a tampon machine, atoiletss if it couldn’t quite decide what sort of bathroom it was. (I had to check the door on the way out, thinking I was in the wrong place, but no, it said “ladies” on the door. I was apparently in the world’s only transvestite bathroom.)

The absolute most luxurious public restroom I’ve used was in the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, Wisconsin. It truly was a restroom, complete with comfortable chairs in the ultra-artistic room. (Still, there is no way I would ever rest in a restroom. I can’t imagine what sort of effluvia has settled into that plush upholstery.)

Restrooms right now are a touchy subject, and I know I’m making light of an issue that is causing all sorts of ruckus (because although I feel bad for folks with problems, I can understand people’s worry that if it becomes legal for a man to use a ladies restroom, it becomes impossible to keep predators out. All they have to do is say they see themselves as a woman.)

But that is not my fight. I have no sympathies for young folk or even middle-aged folk of any gender without bladder issues. What we really need are age-segregated toilets. One especially for older women who can rush in, relieve themselves, wash their hands, and then go. No fuss. No muss.

I am temporarily in a place where I have many toilets at my disposal. Two very lovely bathrooms (well, one large bathroom and one vast shower room) for my private use and one semi-public room. But in a couple of weeks, I will be back on the road, and it’s anyone’s guess where I will go when I have to “go.”

Incidentally, the photo attached to this post is one I took at the Kohler Design Center. If you look closely, you will see that the sculpture, which took up an entire wall, was created from dozens of stacked toilets.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

9 Responses to “When You Have to Go”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with you here, Pat. Anti-rape laws apply no matter where or under what circumstances. Doesn’t what gender you are or identify with or where you do it, if you commit or try to commit sexual assault, you’ll be prosecuted for it.
    By the way, my dad and I both hope you’re feeling better.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m not talking about rape. Just that the issue opens a door, so to speak, to heterosexual perverts. My issue is with making women’s restroom lines even longer.

      And yes, I’m okay. Thank you.

      • rami ungar the writer Says:

        Good to know. And I did hear about a pervert who tried to excuse exposing himself in a women’s restroom by saying he felt he was a woman. He was still arrested and booked on charges. Nobody believed him that he identified as a woman. I think this happened in Washington state, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Right or wrong, it is something mothers of young girls are worried about.

          • rami ungar the writer Says:

            And some mothers are worried about vaccines causing autism. And there are some people worried that every refugee coming out of the Middle East is a secret member of ISIS and that there’s no way to know who is good and who isn’t. Doesn’t mean that it’s likely to happen or that the worry is even there.

  2. Katherine Says:

    When I’ve got to go all I need is enough space to get my panties down and some paper to dab with! LOL

  3. Roger Says:

    At the Libertarian (anything goes) convention recently, one speaker commented that there should be two kinds of bathrooms; one where people wash their hands after, and one where they don’t.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I have seen such disheartening signs in bathrooms, not just telling people to wash their hands, but to flush the toilet, to deposit used toilet paper in the toilet not on the floor, that you know people don’t follow simple hygiene rules. Scary!

  4. paulakaye Says:

    I’m in agreement with you Pat. I have been known to go into a men’s room if the women’s is busy and there are no men around!

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