The Other Part of Travel: Restroom Experiences

When you’re traveling, you have to use the restroom.  The restroom at your hotel, at the restaurant after a long lunch, at the friendly bar you just dominated the main social circle at, when walking the street markets, you name the scenario, when travelling, and you probably will need to use the restroom at some point.

It’s a common experience that relates all of us together.  But I have to tell, I’m convinced the list of common experience is becoming smaller.  And now the restroom is under attack.

And no, this isn’t about genitals, or a person’s “toolbox,” (whatever that reference is NOW being used for), or gender, or names, pronouns, God, your convictions, or anything else that conjures up a thunder storm of emotions.  No, this is more basic than that.

I recently was on a shopping trip, and decided to eat lunch while I was out.  I was buying hygiene and cleaning supplies, and knew I was going to pick up some power tools afterwards, but thought, “hey, what the heck, I’ll eat lunch in the middle, because, ‘Merica……or whatever.”

So, I got to the restaurant (which I will protect by not naming, because this isn’t their fault) and needed to use the restroom.  It was full, for a while.  Ok, I’ll wait.  Because, what else can you do?  That went on for an eternity, and that’s a whole other situation.  But after patience, I got my moment of relief.

I use the stalls, because of weirdos I’ll discuss later.

I sat down for my business, and after a minute some person walked in.  Who knows who they were?  I don’t want to assume.

They went to a urinal and did whatever they were doing.  And honestly, I’m not sure I want to know exactly, nor can I assume in this particular situation.  This restaurant has music they play throughout their establishment.  And that includes the restrooms.  And they play music that tends to be popular, because that’s their marketing strategy – being popular.

A song came on, and I had to ask a millennial (at a much later time, and NOT in a restroom), it was Little Toy Guns by Carrie Underwood.  I don’t know Carrie Underwood’s music.  I’ve heard the name over a dozen times in my life, but I don’t know anything about her, other than she sings country music.  I may experience some bias in this element of the story – because I don’t like country music.  My understanding of the music is it that it originates from folk music hailing from Northern Europe, and that it became “Americanized” through bluegrass and Appalachian heritage, and fast forward to today, and it’s been…….well, it’s been.  I don’t have a taste for the music, I don’t understand the joy people get out of it.  To me, it’s like someone speaking Prussian……it’s no longer viable.  Alas, I digress.

This song came on, and the, whatever, at the urinal started humming the song.  Ok, that’s weird.  No one does that in a restroom.  At least not where I come from.  But to make matters worse, they began singing the song, loud and proud.

It’s already uncomfortable when someone starts humming a tune in a restroom, but to go full-on karaoke, like its last call, and you’re vying for a free drink…..I don’t know what else to say about it, other than it’s far and away from anything decent.  Singing in a men’s restroom?  Singing a country song in a men’s restroom?  A song, sung by a women?

“What in the hell is going on?!?!?!?” Is all I could think as this was happening.

Here I was, trying to finish my business, and this person just takes over the air with their singing.  And for those who are weirdly wondering, it was not good.

I’ve sung in the shower, the bathtub, on the way to work in my car, in my office while working late.  I’ve even sung at a few company parties.  I have not sung in a public restroom.  I’m quite proud of that record.  It’s one of the many things I stand behind when it comes to my record as a human being.

Now, you might be wondering, “Well gee Matt, if that’s the worst thing you’ve ever experienced in a restroom, what are you complaining about?”

I’m not complaining, I’m merely pointing out how weird it gets when you’re out traveling.  And frankly, just being in public in general – because this incident reminded me of a very weird restroom incident when I was in college.

I went to Central Washington University.  There I said it, I’m not protecting them in this incident, but it also wasn’t their fault either.  I used to work in their BOD office, which is an abbreviation for Board of Directors.  For the uninitiated, it’s a panel of students who are voted into specific roles that serve the student body as a whole.  I was a staffer in the office, and we had a restroom below our office.  Clearly, spending time in the office often meant you may be spending some time in that restroom.

I went into said restroom one unassuming sunny April day.  I used a urinal.  There was a person in one of the stalls.  They were in the ADA install in fact.  Lots of room to roam, and boy did they use. They were in there before I was in the restroom, so I figured they’d be on their way without me ever seeing them.  Like I said, it was an unassuming day.

But, that just wasn’t going to happen, no matter how much I assumed.  As I got to the urinal, I could hear them marching around in the stall.  I was in the Army.  When I say marching, I mean it.  This was very dedicate, purpose-driven marching in the stall.  They were serious about getting from point A, to point four feet away, and back again.

At the same time, they began grunting.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  It wasn’t the type of grunting you may have heard in public restrooms.  It was grunting that was in-sync with their turns in the stall while they marched.

Then I saw their fist pumping in the air, above the walls of the stall, out of the peripheral vision in my left eye.  I admit, I was getting nervous.  I just wanted to get out of there as fast as I could.

I cut off my business, affixed my jeans, and made my way to the sink to wash my hands.

As I did that, the person began making shouting noises with those grunts.  It was like they were trying to talk, but couldn’t get their vocal chords to work.  This was getting completely insane.

I turned on the sink, and at that moment the stall door came full swing open, slamming into the adjoining wall.

The person continued to fist pump, but with the intensity of a Lion eating Hyena for breakfast, after fasting for a week.  They stood about 5’7’’, had on flip-flops, shorts that cut off above the knees, a t-shirt, black rimmed glasses, and short dark brown hair.  They appeared to weigh above 300 pounds.

I began washing my hands, hoping that avoiding eye contact would avoid any interactions.  Because there is no way I’m talking in the restroom, let alone to this walking YouTube clip.

They started shouting “I’m the champion!  I’m the champion! I’m the champion!” and ran out of the stall, straight for the door, while another person walked in.

Thankfully, I was able to finish washing hands without an actual interruption, like having to fight a person off their medication.

The person that walked in asked me “What was that about?”

I simply said I had no idea, that I was just washing my hands – as if I needed to justify that I had no involvement with the aspiring professional wrestler who was working on their ring intro.

And still, this is just the surface of some the weirdest moments I’ve witnessed – in public restrooms.

These are bizarre behaviors to say the least, but to acknowledge it publicly, I hope to do more good than to cause a lot of gawking.  Looking at it from the outside, I would probably be laughing.  Don’t feel guilty if you did.

I decided to share this because I am working on a confessions project, the working title is Confessions of a Nation.  If you have confessions like this, or of something completely different, send them my way at: matthew@matthewballantyne.com.

I ask for as many details as you can remember, and I will turn your confession into a short story, filing in whatever may be missing from the confession in terms of story elements, with fictionalized details.  These confessions remain anonymous, and the added story elements give it an extra layer of anonymity.

What happens if I write your confession into a story?  You’ll get a free copy of the book if you desire.  You may also breathe sweet relief.  I know I am after getting this restroom business out of my head.

Coming Tomorrow:’The Other Part of Travel’

If you read my blog, I spend some time posting travel pieces.  I usually focus on quirky bars and restaurants, the general surroundings, and fun things to do.  It’s usually vacation oriented, so why wouldn’t it be about indulging?

But, one of the things I leave out are the weird interactions, happenings, and even incidents, where I am an unwilling victim, or an unknowing witness to something utterly insane.  Let’s face it, the world has gotten strange.  Really strange.  Astronomically strange.  It’s unhealthy, that’s how strange it is to be out in public.  And not just certain people.  For everyone.

Everyone seems to be working hard to make things over-complicated, unfathomable, unthinkable, overt, and above all, unreasonable.  Perhaps it’s in the rush to be a part of the next killer meme.  Or to get a video to go viral, add subscribers to whatever nonsense channels they have, so they can claim an income they aren’t getting, in hopes of scoring that income elsewhere.

Or it could be that insanity goes unchecked in our ever-benevolent society.  At any rate, I feel like trying out some story telling from the back pages of my travel journal.

I’ll be posting the first one tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes.