Aging Forces Sufferer of Public-Restroom Phobia To Conquer Fears

I am damaged goods. I have two mortal fears: one is heights, which I can pinpoint to a scene on network television as a five year old child that forever terrified me of all elevated places.  Ricky Schroder's realistic dramatic performance after his parents careen off a cliff in The Earthling, guaranteed two things for me: I will never own an RV; and I don't do burnouts on cliff side roads.

Years later, my brother Corey was well aware of my phobia, and made light of it by yelling, "Oh my gosh, Chris, the back tires just went off the road," anytime we were on the Oregon Coast Highway, or any logging road without guard rails.

                   The scene from 2:00 - 4:00 destroyed my world.  

"Well, kids, this is the end of the road, I'll just have
to drive in reverse all the way back."  
My father had the 1980s equivalent of a GPS system of logging road maps memorized in his head (he never once consulted the huge Rand McNally Road Atlas), instead Dad would turn from one narrow unkept road to the next until we got to some idyllic paradise, as if driven by some transcendental hippie sense. The elevated scenery would be unknown to me, as I spent these car trips in the back cargo section of the station wagon with a blanket over my head, refusing to see the thousands of feet below that we could fall victim to.  Corey, however, consistently reminded me how close to vehicular death we were at all times, like a play-by-play radio announcer.  

My fear of heights is managed now. I can drive my own family on some of these same roads, and even remove the blanket, from time to time, to see where I'm actually driving.  

My other fear? Public bathrooms.

While washing my hands at a local Arby's, a guy
proceeded to use this urinal right next to me
even though there were two stalls behind us.  Great
planning Arby's.
This restroom fear is two-diminsional.  One part, obviously, is germs.  This can probably be attributed to a dream I once had while camping.  I dreamt that I fell into the campground outhouse holding tank, and had to swim in muck for hours before someone came in and "occupied" the toilet (blocking my only source of light), and didn't hear my screams for help.  This unconscious fear also stemmed from the fact that I was a tiny 5-year-old. Those toilet holes were easily large enough to let a grown adult fall through. I had to use most of my strength to keep balanced on those old toilet seats leading to Dante's cesspool hell.

The other aspect of my fear is that I hate social get-togethers in the bathroom.  While girls might rush off to the latrine in groups, I never want to encounter another human in the restroom, especially my friends. I will walk out if more than two of the three urinals are occupied (man code dictates that the middle urinal is not to be used).

I'm guessing my hatred of awkward bathroom scenarios comes from the group showers my 7th grade PE class was required to take. 7th grade is an awful year to force boys to shower together.  Bodies are changing at different speeds, and while nobody wanted to "look" at anyone else; everyone knew who was more of a "man" than others. Cruelty was rampant. And our PE teacher was a creeper. He was so tired of boys "skipping" their after class shower, that he forced us to line up naked, take a towel from his hand right before the shower, then find one of the ten shower heads and wash our developing body stink off. I hated him. I still do.

I hate being objectified by women while peeing.  
So for about fifteen years. I avoided public bathrooms. My bladder was already resilient from long car vacations, I just trained it to last an eight hour day. The bathroom at my home became my haven. I used the restroom at my high school maybe three times.

During the seven years I worked at Sears, I used the store restroom maybe ten times.

Still, at random outings, where my home was not an option anytime soon, nature could sometimes call. It's not like I was unable to use a public restroom; I just strongly hated the idea of it. Now, as an aging man, public restrooms have become a necessary evil. I can still wait six hours. But an eight hour shift? Not anymore. Especially if I drink coffee.

It's always a Yankee fan.  
Yet every time I do venture into the white porcelain abyss to take care of business, some whack-job walks in right after me and uses the urinal right next to me.  Did he just check out my area?  Was that his overspray that just hit my arm?  Why is this guy right next to me, when there are three other urinals?  

I have developed escape plans in case of bathroom rapists. I've had to kill off at least seven assassins in the restroom in my weird delusions.  I like to think I'm Jason Bourne, eliminating anyone who doesn't know public restroom protocol.

Because there are the guys who like to have conversations in the restroom.  Look, buddy, I don't give a crap about your day, or the weather, or how the Yankees are doing. I came in here to do my business, not to get involved in yours. Actually, you know what? How would you like a knee to the kidney?

So since I'm obviously mentally handicapped (considering I have violent fantasies) in this arena, here's my list of accommodations that American businesses should keep in mind.
  • All urinals should have a divider between them.  Keeps young, and/or inquisitive eyes away from packages that aren't theirs, and keeps overspray to a minimum.  
  • Make all doors have automatic opening devices.  Why make the toilet flush itself, the water turn on without a lever, the soap dispense by a wave of the hand, the towel descend by motion, and then have us all touch the same exact handle on the way out? 
  • Have robots slap conversationalists. We live in an anti-social world, so why start talking in the latrine?  
  • Mood music and Fabreeze dispenses on toilet seat contact. I don't go #2 in public, so listening to someone else's bowels play their version of the 1812 Overture is an insult to random noises everywhere. Nobody likes Muzak, but I think this is where it rightfully and purposefully belongs.
  • Photograph the toilet destroyers.  Remember the robot slapper?  Its also equipped with a camera.  It photographs every person using the stalls. That four hundred pound guy who secretes grease and uses the stall as his personal laxative station?  His stall destruction will now be posted to his facebook page with before and after usage images.  (My wife asked what I was talking about...apparently girls never encounter the stall that experienced explosive stool syndrome...must be a guy thing).  
People are always talking about how we only have one world, and to protect our rivers, streams, and parks. Yes. Good ideas. But it's pretty hard to do this when much of the populace isn't even potty trained yet.


  1. Overspray? Yeesh, sometimes I'm glad to be a girl.
    Also, that road with the truck hanging off the edge? Been on it. Terrifying. I'm not so much afraid of heights as I am of falling...

    1. I admit I stole that photo off the internet and have no idea where it is. Do you know where it is? Just so I can never, ever, ever, go near there. I can't even watch Ice Road Truckers when they traveled the world's most dangerous roads.

  2. When I was in elementary school, a girl stood on the toilet of the stall next to me and peeked her head over to talk. From that day on, I was terrified of public bathrooms. I think I've finally gotten over the fear, but I do still find myself scanning the walls above me every time I go. And the school shower thing?! You definitely had it worse than me, but I hated them too!! Our teacher didn't go so far as to make us stand naked, but we did have to check in with her after our shower, wrapped in those washcloth sized towels to make sure we got our arms and legs wet. My cousin's daughter, who now attends that same school, says showers aren't required anymore. Those kids don't even know how lucky they are.

    1. They stopped "mandatory" showering the year after I left middle school. Just like they outlawed hazing after my freshman year. I'm always been the last to receive life altering humiliation.

      "washcloth sized towels" ha ha. So true.

  3. I had no idea peeing in public was a such a big deal to folks. (Note: there's no sarcasm there) I just go. Never has bothered me. I do 100% agree with you about the door handle though, those things are gross.