I've always had an aversion to public bathrooms. This is partly due to the fact that I had an uncanny knack for choosing stalls that have been marked, in one way or the other, by its previous occupant. If I had plans to go to the mall, I do whatever business I had in my own comfy bathroom. So I was safe from emergencies whenever I had to head out to hunt for a new notebook, hang out with friends, or watch a movie. In turn, I've missed a huge chunk of important girl gossip, as I always took a pass on joining the group bathroom breaks.
I never knew what my reasons were exactly for harboring such negative feelings about public bathrooms. My dad made no mention of any childhood traumas. I also do not remember seeing any creatures luring me into its dark abyss. Maybe deep down, I really am just a stall snob and didn't care for the literature that was on the walls.
I've had my mind on toilets lately. One cannot erase the picture of those pink atrocities along the roads. I pass them every single day when I go to work and it somehow has seeped, unwillingly, into my unconscious. Sure, placing portable toilets is an ingenious idea. All the aimless men of Manila will have somewhere to go. Nearby bushes will remain clean, and dark corners will no longer emit mysterious odors. BUT, they could have been designed better.
I recently made Grace Bermejo history by willingly going on a public bathroom break on a recent trip to Paris. After reveling at the marvel of the Eiffel Tower, and climbing its steps, I was presented with a bone chilling realization: I needed to go to the bathroom. So I had three choices: suffer the long ride to the hotel and pray that my bladder cooperates; dazzle one of the waiters from the nearby restaurant with my Loony Tunes-inspired French; or just (wo)man up and find a bathroom stall already!
For my bladder, I chose the latter.
After minutes of deciphering street signs, this emerged before my eyes.
I patiently took my position at the end of the short queue. It looked like Captain Kirk would emerge out of it at any minute. Quite exciting!
As a virtual expert and travel guide commentator on "Toilets around the World", naturally, I was fascinated. It was an interesting installation outside, on the sidewalk, and yet it looked safe and solid. No one was going to accidentally peek in. You also had no fear of someone mugging you while you are at your most vulnerable.
I probably should explain how it works.
There are four buttons. You push button #1 and a panel slides open. You step inside and there is a sink, a mirror and a toilet at your disposal. You can do whatever you want to do on a 15 minute time limit. (Whatever happens AFTER 15 minutes, I didn't dare find out). After you are done, you push button # 2 from the inside, and a panel slides open where you can exit. The next person in line pushes button # 3 from the outside, and the stall prompts an automated device, cleaning the entire thing for one minute: It flushes the toilet; washes the floors; cleans the sink; empties the trash and disinfects the entire area. Button #4 opens the stall for the next occupant, all ready, clean and pristine. No fear of nasty surprises; no more holding your breath while you do your business.
Now THIS is a bathroom.
So has this become the turning point of my public bathroom phobia?
Of course not.
But it sure is a step towards recovery. =)