Travel Thoughts

November 24, 2003

We are in the midst of that most American of traditions, traveling to be with family for a major holiday. The has brought us into contact with several other major American traditions, some good and others not so good.

Topping the not so good list is that affront we call the public restroom. In our trip from Illinois to North Carolina we saw the complete spectrum of public restrooms. One instance was so bad that I wanted to clean the bottoms of my shoes before getting back into the car afterwards. Another was so clean and well kept that we wanted to schedule a stop there on the return visit because it was such a pleasant experience.

Being male I get to experience the restroom leavings all all those barely civilized creatures with whom I share common plumbing. It’s almost as if they are in a contest to see how badly they can treat this shared public space. One wonders how they manage to alter their piss-poor habits while at home. And then one feels sorry for the partner left to clean up their rudeness.

I suspect that more men are like me than not, but traveling along our interstate highway system exposes you to a breed of male that is determined to make us all look like mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging louts.

Another bathroom related failing is the advent of the single huge roll of toilet paper. I suppose this reduces the number of re-stocking visits required by the maintenance staff, but that only leads to the problem discussed above. I find these huge roll dispensers a pain for two reasons. One, it is impossible to remove the paper you want to use without turning it into a long rope of paper rather then getting normal tissue width. Having to spend time unfurling the tissue before using it irks me.

The second problem is how these dispensers are mounted on the stalls. Usually the are so low as to require I bend and contort myself over my knees to get at the end, hidden somewhere inside the opening of the dispenser. And I get to scrape my hands on the metal teeth designed to tear this industrial strength paper trying to get the roll started again. Of course these same teeth are incapable of tearing the paper itself, as it is really some form of high tensile fabric better suited for polishing rough metal than acting as toilet paper.

Americans are so hypocritical about their bathroom experiences. We profess to be the nation with the highest standard of living and yet we force ourselves to suffer the ignominy of public restrooms.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.