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Monday, July 14, 2008

Fear of the Flush

This weekend, while we were enjoying our practically perfect Saturday, I had a couple of not perfect in any way encounters with public restrooms. That was followed by reading my friend Catherine's blog about an "icky potty" experience with her daughter, and I realized I wasn't alone.

I have a fear of flushing.

It's not the same fear of flushing that prevented me from actually flushing the toilet at my grandmother's house. That toilet would overflow if you so much as walked in the room, looked at it and walked back out. So not flushing always seemed the safest course of action.

It's also not the same fear as I experienced using squatty-potty public restrooms overseas. That was a very real fear of falling down - it took a while to build up rock-hard thigh muscles.

What I am talking about is a fear of touching the toilet handle in a public restroom. Leave aside  the debates of to-sit-or-not-to-sit, turn the sink on before washing hands or not, paper towel vs shirt vs foot vs nothing special at all to open the door. It's a simple logical progression:
  • Restroom floors are filthy. 
  • Shoes touch filthy floors.
  • Shoes touch toilet handles.
  • Toilet handles are filthy.
I know not everyone flushes a toilet with their foot, but there are many who do. This leads to a classic dilemma: 
  • Has this toilet ever been flushed using a foot? 
  • If it has, was the toilet handle cleaned when the toilet was last cleaned? (Ummm....likely not)
  • Was this toilet flushed using a foot today?
  • Do I take a risk and use my hand?
By the number of women contorting their bodies in narrow stalls, balancing jackets and bags, all to flush the toilet using their feet, I would say that I am not the only risk-averse person when it comes to flushing  public toilets.

So here's a question:
  • If they make toilets that flush automatically - sometimes while you're still seated, and sometimes so rigorously that the seat gets soaked (re: the earlier question of to-sit-or-not-to-sit)
  • If they make sinks that turn on automatically
  • If they make soap dispensers that squirt automatically, and
  • If they make hand dryers that dispense either air or paper towels automatically, then
  • Why can't they make a toilet with a flush mechanism that is foot operated?


  1. It is interesting to me the points this can raise. The true issue at hand here is "trust." If I walk into a restroom and cannot tell by looking at the situation whether or not something was truly cleaned like I would want it cleaned - what is my inclination to think?

    I think, "it is probably not sanitary."

    So what do I do? I use my foot. I had someone say to me once (when they found out I do that) - "you are the reason restrooms are not trustworthy, using your foot like that."

    Baby, I am not the reason - I am the end result - of not being able to trust because of past experiences.

    Now what grosses me out is people who do not wash their hands. Always wondered what a guy might say if you went up to him and his significant other right afterwards and said, "Dude, you forgot to wash your hands."

    Things us smaller guys just never get to do...

    Here is what Shannah & I like to do...we go to the gym and point out the gross people to each other...seem childish? Maybe, but to me it is almost like scouting the enemy-the pet germ carrier.

    Kelly: "Shannah, see that guy right there?"

    Shannah: "The one on the weight machine we want to use next?"

    Shannah: "Yes-he did NOT wash his hands"

    Shannah: (While getting out the hand sanitizer) "See that cute girl you keep looking at?"

    Kelly: "Uh...I was um...she has a really neat...I was looking at her shoes."

    Shannah: "Yeah, well chances are those are cleaner than her hands from what I just saw-she did not wash her hands."

    I have to tell you-when a guy does it, I think...ok, a dumb guy. But when a girl does...I do not know what to think.

    Trust. Funny word. I do not consider myself a germaphobe. If I were I would not use a keyboard. But let's get real. I cannot trust people I do not know with doing the right thing. That spills into several areas of life, sure.

    But wait, I trust the food brought to me in a restaurant carried from "some kitchen" that I have never seen. I trust when I drive that the other 30 drivers around me will stay in their lane-NOT! But really, I have to. To not is to stay off the road entirely. Otherwise, I would have a stroke in Dallas. I am forced to trust or be a paranoid schiz. I have to trust the food is ok or not eat out - not everyone gets to examine the kitchen at the restaurant and not get thrown out of the place.

    I am forced to trust the elevator is maintained and monitored if stairs are not an option.

    I am forced to trust that our government is not sending us into WWIII due to some stupid computer error.

    I am left to trust that God will do what He said He would do by saving me because of of what He did that I could never do.

    There are lots of things I just simply must trust - even if I am wary to an extent.

    But here is the rub. I am NOT forced to trust in the restroom. And there is just something personal and private about it. Maybe that is why a guy will walk out of the restroom past the sinks where 4 are washing and 2 are waiting for their turn-and not even think about what might be going through those 6 men's minds-seeing his habit.

    He no care! It is a private matter.

    Well, I do not want to touch any of his private matter - so-it is to the foot for me. Because I do not know where he is or when he is going to come around.

    So, let me say that I am sorry to the 6 guys at the sink if I contribute to a problem. I know this dude is not you. But he is not serving my food I hope, probably could not be trusted to maintenance an elevator, might run me off the road while talking on his cell, and he ain't God.

    So I will not trust him.

    I got issues.

  2. I think you both summed up the issues with the public bathrooms. My kids, who aren't so subtle or nice, are quick to point out to someone when they haven't washed their hands with a simple question "aren't you going to wash your hands?"