A Bathroom Manifesto in Eleven Points

After years of squinting in the dark to tell if the seat was clean, stretching one arm way out in front to keep the stall door closed and sitting side-saddle because the toilet paper dispenser was in my lap, I have a few ideas about how bathrooms should be kept. I hope someone takes this into consideration when they plan how to design a public bathroom.

This is my public restroom manifesto.

1. All stalls shall have proper lighting.

Do all the mood lighting you want in the sink area. Candle light, funky chandeliers, or brutal gym lights. Really, I could care less about the sink lighting. But the stalls. I want a bright light and no shadows. See, I’m not a squatter and I’m not a toilet seat cover user or a toilet paper ad-hoc coverer, but I am a cleaner. I will take some toilet paper and clean a toilet seat that has some water from the previous flush on it.

I want to see the water that needs to be cleaned up. I don’t want a cursory look in the dim light to be turned into cursing in the dim light because I’m now wet where I shouldn’t be wet. Ahem. Lighting.

2. All stalls shall have room for the door to open and an adult to step in.

Call me crazy, but I do not want to have to straddle a toilet in order to get into the stall enough to close the door. No straddling, no squeezing, no square dancing moves. I want to step in, close the stall door behind me and not have to brush up against anything. And if this is an airport bathroom, which might need a manifesto all it’s own, I must be able to get my luggage into the stall with me and still not crawl all over the toilet.

3. All locks shall lock and unlock.

I am done with the days of stretching an arm or leg out to keep a stall door closed. I am done with days of creatively hanging my purse and somehow jamming the stall door shut. And after a late night in Jerusalem, I am also done with “take your cell phone with you in case you get locked in” warnings.

A lock that closes the stall door and then easily opens, but only under my power, is all I’m asking for here. The best bet here seems to be the big sliding locks, not dinky things that need to perfectly line up. I’m also done with lifting a door with my foot to properly align the lock with the lock-hole. (that’s technical jargon.)

4. No body parts shall be touched by the toilet paper dispenser.

I have an aversion to anything other than the toilet seat touching my body when I’m on the toilet. I don’t want the cabinet to touch me, I don’t want the toilet paper dispenser to touch me and I sure as hell don’t want the feminine hygiene trash can to touch me. Here is a little hint to the men that attach toilet paper dispenser to stall walls.

SIT DOWN ON THE TOILET AND THEN POSITION THE TOILET PAPER DISPENSER.

I refuse to believe that if you were sitting on the toilet when you drilled those holes that you would put it where you leg naturally goes. Or so close to the ground that I have to lean over. Or so close to the door that I can barely reach it. (Which is the opposite of point four, but I’m talking LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION here.)

5. All stalls shall have ample hooks for purses and bags.

It’s a bathroom. You know that right? You know what goes on in a stall on a normal day, right? Yeah. I don’t want to put my purse on that floor and then take it home, where forgetting your bathroom earlier in the day, I drop my germy purse onto my kitchen counter. No. NO NO NO NO.

Give me some sturdy hooks, maybe two or three, to properly hang my belongings. Especially in a city where there is a thing called winter and sometimes I have a purse, a winter coat and a messenger bag to juggle. Give me peace of mind and let me hang my stuff up.

6. All stalls shall have toilet paper and bathrooms shall have an emergency supply available.

I’d like to say this is a no-brainer. I’d like to say these are all no-brainers, but if they were, there would be no need for this manifesto. I have to give props to two bathrooms for the availability of emergency toilet paper. The first are the bathrooms at HUC in Jerusalem. Each had a 48 pack under the sink. The second is the Northwestern School of Law bathroom. They had a special shelf FULL of toilet paper. Learn from these universities, restrooms of the world. Ample toilet paper and back-up supplies available make for happy customers.

7. All toilets shall flush.

I’m a homeowner and before that I worked in college housing. I am not shy about taking a toilet apart to make it flush, but I don’t want to do that in a public restroom. However, I also will do everything in my power to leave the next user an empty toilet, so I will take lids off toilets, push buttons and pull strings.

Or you, owner of a public restroom, could just keep the toilet in working order. Water in, water and waste out.

8. All floors shall be dry.

Remember what I said about setting my purse on the floor? I also don’t want the hem of my pants or skirt to get wet in unidentified “God, please let this be water” on the floor. I don’t want to walk in wearing my cute summer sandles or ugly crocs and get my fresh pedicure wet in what I hope is water. I also don’t like walking out and leaving wet footprints behind me, leaving a trail of people wondering what I stepped in and if I realize that I’m tracking “Oh god, please let it just be water” across the restaurant.

9. All bathrooms shall have at least one toilet that doesn’t feel like it belongs in a kindergarten bathroom.

I’m tall, but I accept that short people exist. I love some very nice short people. Everyone doesn’t need a toilet that comes up to my knee, some people need toilets that come up to my shin. I don’t. I want the option of a toilet that is at chair height. I don’t want to need a bar above my head to pull myself up and off the toilet, rather a toilet at the appropriate height would serve me fine.

10. Toilets shall not have those plastic slipcovers on them.

The automatic plastic slip-covers at O’Hare creep me out. CREEP ME OUT. Do I know if you waved your hand and made the thingy move? Do you know if I did? Do I know that the plastic things aren’t recycled?

No, no, no, and no. (Actually, I’m pretty trusting that the industry really is one use only… but still.) I can clean off a toilet seat that is reused time and again, I can only wave my hand and hope a clean plastic sheet rolls out for me.

11. Automatically flushing toilets shall only flush when really appropriate.

Some toilets flush with such gusto that they cover the toilet seat with water. Thus the need for proper lighting to clean it off with. But what happens then the auto-toilet flushes, you clean it and before you can sit on the toilet it flushes again, covering the toilet seat with water, which you clean…. Finally, you get the timing right and sit before it flushes.

But then the automatically flushing toilet flushing while you are mid-business and you get the distinct feeling that some business just got flushed with gusto up onto you.

Ugh… I hate that feeling. So, automatically flushing toilets of the world, don’t flush when I’m sitting on you or just after I’ve gotten the toilet seat clean enough to sit. How about you get tied to the stall door somehow, eh?

*This manifesto is written by an American for primarily a Western audience. If I am somewhere that toilets don’t flush or toilet paper isn’t used, I’ll make do.

**This was inspired by the new LA Bathroom Blog.

***What did I miss? What is on your bathroom manifesto?

P.S. If I need to tip someone in the bathroom, warn me, cause I feel like an asshole when I go to a bathroom and can’t tip the woman giving me toilet paper or eyeshadow.

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