Before I begin, imagine what the dreadful amusement park Cloaca World would be like, let alone look like. Welcome to some of the thoughts that traipse across my neurons. You’re welcome.
I have accepted—as I hope we all have—my place in the animal kingdom, a member of an intelligent primate species that has gotten “out of the food chain,” as Louis C.K. so aptly put it. Our escape notwithstanding, we are still bound to the activities of our ancestors. Waste elimination is often a discreet and private affair, seldom discussed in public and often reserved for bright rooms filled with various forms of polished earthenware. Each home has at least one main room relegated to the task, a veritable Cloaca Maxima, where natural bodily functions are masked by aerosolized shame and guilt. Is anyone truly fooled when walking into a bathroom and is hit with the smell of pumpkin pie? Last I checked, such are not the goods baked there.
O, the bathroom: a sanitized place where faucets are needlessly turned on to shield the outside world from our mammalian sounds. This, incidentally, is a major psychotic hatred of mine. Demure individuals who waste perfectly good water to hide what comes naturally to all humans need to be given a swift kick in the taint.
What the reader should have undoubtedly concluded is that this post will pertain to a particular set of bodily functions. The funniest kinds.
Enter at your own risk.
Ok… So, I wasn’t entirely honest in my opening.
What I shall discuss won’t have much to do with elimination in a proper sense, but rather the awkward interactions one has—with people and the facilities utilized—when one assumes the position. As humans, we have the luxury to sit and/or stand behind closed doors. And no doors are more interesting than the doors that lead to public lavatories. I suspect interesting is a relative term; terrifying and repulsive perhaps better approximate the experience of the public facilities. Many of the surfaces are wet, foreign hairs adorn the sinks, and toilet paper/paper towel grenades most certainly detonated moments before ingress.
Basically, “an incarnate Night-Mare that I had no power to shake off—incumbent eternally upon my heart!” Bathrooms are certainly not that frightening, but they can be abominable bastions of microbial life. Butt microbes and other pernicious beasties pollute bathrooms across the world. I could only begin to imagine the fear and anxiety of a germophobe. The words fecal and coliform in every context should instill fear in the hearts of mortals. Poorly operating automated soap and paper towel dispensers often mean intimate contact with soiled handles and knobs is necessary imparting higher probabilities of illness. Gross. Why don’t these things ever work properly? If it weren’t for automated sensors, onlookers would suspect the violent jerkings by the sink were signs of a seizure.
When it comes to the violent expulsions of the bowels, some seem to be unabashed by the presence of strangers.
Isn’t it rather humorous the protracted steps we take to seek the familiar and the comfortable when in search for public lavatories? One laboriously endeavors find a clean and welcoming throne to lay waste upon. Privacy is also desirable if not a prerequisite; few enjoy company when discharging excreta. Upon entering a bathroom, we become increasingly—if not uncomfortably—self-aware of all our actions and sounds. We harness our inner ninja when extracting toilet paper lest strangers discover we decided to utilize the porcelain bowel for its intended purpose. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has even classified a social anxiety disorder for those with timid bowels called paruresis. In my mind, I see no reason for this anxiety; the bathroom was intended for a small subset of human activities. No one expects to find someone casually crocheting, do they? One may as well oblige ears (and noses) that dare to eavesdrop.
For some, privacy is a non-issue. Those familiar with Pennsylvania Station in New York City will certainly be acquainted with individuals who shave or wash more body parts than just their hands and face. These citizens obliterate the line between hygienic privacy and raunchy voyeurism. And that’s to say nothing of the guttural sounds that pour forth from behind flimsy stalls. When it comes to the violent expulsions of the bowels, some seem to be unabashed by the presence of strangers. I daresay some aim to put on a performance.
To pile on the bizarre, we Homo sapiens also have peculiar bathroom rituals and customs. For men, I’ve noticed that idle palaver, standing too closely at urinals, eye contact during urination, and conversations across stalls is verboten. There are, however, notable exceptions. Groups of friends tend to ignore these unwritten sanctions, as well as people that were already mid-conversation upon entering the communal commode. It’s impressive how divisive this topic can be. No chatter in the cloaca. Just ask around and one is guaranteed to receive wildly different answers, some vehemently expressed. I don’t shy away from conversations in the bathroom. I feel it’s important to repudiate certain customs. Therefore, I say: talk to people in the bathroom. Even strangers. Who knows? Depending on the topic, it could be a stimulating conversation.
Then there are bathroom attendants. These poor souls condemned to an eternity of everlasting hell-stench. Stalwart guards of the most highfalutin lavatories, bathroom attendants are typically older individuals that seem all too eager to hand me paper towels. Although I don’t mind conversation, I find helping hands in bathrooms rather unwelcome, bordering on creepy. Depending on the establishment, attendants oversee a cache of gum, mints, cologne, and other bathroom desiderata. No! Items from a bathroom must never enter the mouth. Ever. And trust me… if one bathes regularly and wears unsoiled clothing, one shan’t require additional odor enhancement. No need to assault the nasal passages of dinner companions.
Wretched is he who dines in a bathroom… alone.
The most disturbing undertaking I’ve noticed in a public bathroom is eating. Who finds a bathroom a suitable place for meals? Truly a mind-boggling spectacle to behold, enough to summon the germophobe in us all. I once walked in on a man (a dreadful start to a sentence, yes?) hunched over a sink enjoying some Yodels and coffee. It bestows a new meaning to the delightful Kaffee und Kuchen. The enjoyment or displeasure of the gustatory experience is inextricably linked to the ambiance. However, no matter how gilded or wholesome the environment, only the despoliation of delicious food can occur in a commode. And yes, even a bathroom-themed restaurant sounds absolutely revolting. Wretched is he who dines in a bathroom… alone. Maybe share with the bathroom attendant?
Cloaca World would be a strange place indeed. Bemusing rides, terrifying sights, repugnant smells. It would truly be the stuff of nightmares so incumbent on the heart it would undoubtedly make Freddie Kruger consider new employment. Why are we so afraid of our exrcreta? Expulsion of waste is not a new phenomenon. Yet, supererogatory measures are taken to hide our crimes. We create these artificial boundaries (most recently in terms of gender) which make urination and defecation a more strenuous task than it ought to be. And when you think about it, attempting to find privacy in a public bathroom is paradoxical.
In closing, I make this entreaty to all mortals that use public lavatories, and I think that one should strive to make it a virtue: before departing, all bathroom guests must wash their hands prior to reentry to the external world.