Sunday, February 18, 2007

The family restroom

Know what annoys me? When I find people using facilities that they're not supposed to be using. Able-bodied folk (without the appropriate parking tag) parking in handicapped parking spaces. Perfectly healthy young people sitting in the disabled seats on the bus or subway. Those have always bugged me. And here's the latest: people who monopolize the family restroom--without having a family in tow!

Many department stores and malls have family restrooms now. Typically, they are one-seater rooms with locking doors and changing tables, located immediately adjacent to the regular men's and women's restrooms. They are usually labeled "family restrooms" or something to that effect. They are a godsend for parents with small children because everyone can go in there together, use the facilities, etc, without bugging anyone else. I like them because I have plenty of room to park the stroller and unpack the diaper bag for a messy diaper change, particularly when I have to also rinse out an outfit that's gotten, er, rather disgusting.

It doesn't bother me when I see a disabled person using the family restroom because I understand that s/he may need a little extra space and time (and privacy). But oh boy, it burns me up when I have to wait outside the family restroom with a cranky stinky baby...only to encounter a healthy single person who is by himself exiting the restroom after a very long time. Oh yes, and it's always a man.

Take my experience yesterday. David and I took William to have his ten-month portrait taken at Sears. David made me a deal: he'd stay down at the studio and order and pay for the pictures if I'd take William up to the first floor restroom and change his diaper and clothes.

No problem. Now. The ladies' restroom at Sears has three or four stalls, but it's pretty narrow, and the changing table is very hard to navigate around if you've got a stroller. So I typically use the family restroom next door. But it's locked. Okay, I think, it's probably a person in a wheelchair who wants to use the larger room, or maybe a fellow parent with a toddler or two. I wait. I wait and wait and wait.

And the door finally opens. Nope, not a disabled person or a harried mom or a sheepish dad. Not even a seasick-looking pregnant woman, queasily wiping away the remains of a lunch that wouldn't stay down. Not even a kid who probably should know better but might not. No, it's an able-bodied, husky, well-to-do man in his mid-sixties, I'd estimate. An able-bodied man in his mid-sixties without a wheelchair, a cane, a walker, a family or any other accoutrements. Oh yes, and said man left the *&$!&#!* toilet seat up and had not flushed the toilet. The toilet which he had used. And given that the sink basin was dry, I'd hazard a guess that he didn't bother to wash his hands either ( another pet peeve, but I will leave that for another day ).

I made a point of calling loudly as I steered the stroller into the room that the man who had just left not only didn't have a family yet monopolized the family restroom but had not flushed the nasty toilet. An employee walked by and heard me, looked appalled and radioed for someone on her little walkie-talkie. Probably just to come clean up the bathroom. But wouldn't it be great to sic a security detail onto this guy, teach him not to take advantage of services that are not for him! Services and facilities who are designed for people for whom it is difficult or very inconvenient to use the others!

Argh! It makes me want to shake a dirty diaper in those people's general direction!

On a good note, William looked very cute for his pictures, and we managed to get one that almost exactly matches a portrait of his daddy at the exact same age. I think it'd be fun to frame the two of them and put them next to each other.

But geez. I'm still annoyed with that guy. I'm probably more annoyed, given that that's at least the fifth time in the last couple of months that I've encountered almost the exact same situation at Sears, Macy's or someplace similar. Sometimes it's a young, good-looking guy in his 20s. Sometimes it's a self-important businessman in his 40s. I glare at them all and hope that they can smell William's diaper.

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