Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Rest of the Restrooms

A Place To Pee

I've often thought that one way for competitors of Wal-Mart (such as Target) to gain an edge over their rival is to have really good restrooms (toilets, you know), thus giving people an extra incentive to shop at their stores. Of course, there are costs involved, but how much is a happy bunch of customers worth? Why in huge stores with large numbers of shoppers such as Wal-Mart are there only a few, unpleasant stalls and urinals (in the men's rooms, naturally) instead of enough to truly accommodate (or is that a commode a date) the many needy gotta goers?

I pulled into Wal-Mart just the other day, then discovered after I'd parked that I had to go, and badly. As I crossed the parking lot, anxiously hoping that Wal-Mart had a free urinal in the men's restroom just inside the door near customer service, I fantasized about what a world that was really created by an omnipotent god would be like. There would be no waste that we'd have to eliminate from our bodies, leading to unbearably uncomfortable moments such as I was experiencing, but whatever we ate or drank would be completely absorbed, leaving no trace or trickle to deal with later, but only, perhaps, a pleasing scent, possibly emitted from the surface of the skin, even making regular bathing unnecessary, as it would cleanse us as well (and no more dealing with smelly homeless people in the library or on the bus as an added bonus). If only god was real, what a wondrous world it would be.

So, I reach the doors of the store, enter and head straight for the what's supposed to be a restroom (which should be a place where you can actually rest rather than fight a crowd and have to do your business in front of an audience) only to find one of the two--yes, two!--urinals out of service and covered with a plastic sheet. Not only that, but there was a line of boys and men behind the stall and the one working urinal, and I wasn't willing to wait or put on a show, so I hastily left.

A thought then occurred to me. This particular Wal-Mart was in a large shopping complex, made up of a huge mall and, across the parking lot, more stores in an open strip mall. I knew there was a Borders book store in that other series of shops on the other side of the asphalt. It would be an agonizing walk, but that's the destination I decided on, figuring the restroom there would be lightly occupied if at all. But as I made my way painfully through the weekend crowds, I found myself inside a JCPennys department store. This, I thought, could be the answer to my need for relief. I saw the sign above the escalator, indicating that the store's restrooms were upstairs. Old fashioned department stores usually have pretty decent toilet stations (isn't that a much better--and more honest-- name for them?), only surpassed in comfort and cleanliness by the magnificent labyrinths of sinks, stalls and pee receptacles that you find in grand hotels.

I got on the moving staircase and found a nearly empty floor on my arrival at the second level. This is perfect! I moved more swiftly now, knowing nothing and no one could foil me now. The hall off of which sat my heavenly destination was only a few feet away.

I burst into the restroom, prepared to finally unzip and let go a steady 2 or 3 minute stream, when what do I find but a man changing his kid's diaper on the "changing station" right next to the urinals. This wasn't an infant either, but a little girl who carried on a conversation with her dad while he cleaned her up. I felt uncomfortable, to say the least, especially with the guy's other kids, a few of them also girls, loitering around the place while they waited for their father to finish taking care of the youngest member of the clan.

Why me, I asked myself, before retreating back into the hallway and going to plan B, that is, Plan Borders. As I relieved myself in the okay Borders men's room, I knew I would inevitably browse the aisles of books after I was through. It's an illness, folks, and I really can't help myself. Like my mom in a shopping center, we're talking a visit of at least an hour or two whenever I find myself around that many bound volumes of reading material. The urge to purchase certain valuable tomes I pick up then becomes irresistible.

When it was all over, let's just say that it was one very expensive use of a "rest" room.


  1. Actually, part of the reason I shop at Target instead of Walmart is the restrooms. I always have to pee, so it's a big concern for me.

    Walmart's women's restrooms: a pack of rabid dingos on meth couldn't create that kind of mess- or smell.

    Target's women's restrooms: pleasant, flattering lighting, lots of space, clean, smells of cleaners.

  2. Public restrooms are one of the reasons I don't eat seafood, same horrible odor.

    Poor little girl having to be changed like that. They should have more family changing rooms available for those situations.

    I like you saying "if only God was real..." that was a nice touch!

  3. Target's women's restrooms: pleasant, flattering lighting, lots of space, clean, smells of cleaners....hmmm, the Targets I visit don't ever seem to have any restrooms at all, at least that are easy to find. One I frequent has a single unisex one-person-at-a-time restroom at the very front right behind the checkout lanes, but everyone can see you enter and exit it, so I never use it (I needs my semi-privacy, ya know).

  4. My OCD is returning just reading this post.... Actually you made some great points. I tend to procrastinate "going" period when I'm out and about. This has also given birth to some mighty fancy dance moves (worse than Elaine on Seinfeld) and ghoulish facial expressions.

    I drove quite a bit for my job, 2500-3000 miles per month. Rest stops, and gas station bathrooms are pitiful. Don't get me started on fast food "rest rooms"... I've always wondered, too, why they call them "rest" stops or "rest" rooms...

    Loved your post!


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