Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Explicating Anonymous

The half-crumpled paper towels are crimped in the middle, where they have gripped the bathroom door handle before they were discarded to the floor. There are usually 3 or 4 by the end of the day, though one afternoon there were more than 10. Apparently someone isn't feeling very well.

Someone we work with thinks we are all so germy she should not touch the door handle, but that her litter could not, -- in any way -- contribute to the germ problem in the bathroom. She must be the same woman who uses a seat cover, but doesn't discard that either.

I wonder at the shock of discovering who this is. It wouldn't take much effort, just a lot of time, and a lot of fake primping in the mirror as the regulars come and go. What if it's someone I know? Would I simply blurt, "That's you?! what the hell's wrong with you?" Or would I try to protect her dignity: "Oops, you dropped something there"? Am I person who says oops?

I am not a person who puts up bathroom signs, though I certainly think of them. I edit and rework until I find the succinct language I think will do the trick.

Inconsiderate people do not change their behavior in response to a sign, as if they didn't know that eating other people's lunches, dropping paper towels on the floor, or leaving their dishes in the sink is "not done." "Oh, no?" they would say, blinking with wonder, "Why didn't someone say something?"

Some sign writers appeal to this stranger in our strange land with gentle pleading language like, "We must all share this area. Please keep it clean." (In truth, that sign would be comma-spliced, since the gentle sign leaver tends toward the ungrammatical: "To whomever use's this bathroom please keep it clean, it is everyones.") Laundromat missionary types.

Others know that bathroom slobs simply don't care. The party who puts up signs to them wants the populace to know that they do care and it isn't them. "This is not a trash can," they may post, above the towel pile. Perhaps just an arrow, and the word "Pig." Borderline graffiti, really. And a little brown-shirty.

I tend toward prag-castic. That is, a sign that suggests you would if you just knew how, but left to your own devices, you made a wrong choice. The typical adjective for this style is "bitchy."

"Please discard paper towels in the trash can." Ooohhhh. I see now.

So while we are at it, the receptacle inside the stall is not a trashcan. It is a holding bin for the wax disposal bags. Take one bag out, put your personal refuse in it, close the bag, bring it out with you, and throw it away. (please do not drop it behind the door). When you wad it back into the receptacle, or put your refuse directly into the receptacle (assuming there is a bag in there to catch it all, and of course that would be the better design) you remove all desire for the next person to reach in and take her bag.

If all of this is disturbing the male readership, here's one for you: stand closer please.
And get out of our bathroom. We'd like you to think we are as clean in public as we complain about at home. We are not.

Two Canada bathroom stories: Canadian bathrooms had a syringe disposal receptacle, usually near the sink, but sometimes in the stall.

My favorite bathroom sign was on Peggy's Cove, where potable water comes from one reservoir, and non-potable from a cistern. This is a paraphrase, but quite close: "This water is clean. The previous water did not neglect to flush. This water comes from an underground cistern, which discolors its appearance. Our drinking water comes from a different reservoir and is filtered. Thank you for your concern."

Read: Don't complain, and don't put up your own sign. And have a nice day.

1 comment:

  1. Get out. I'm supposed to get a bag out and take it out with me? I thought those were just extra bags. Okay I haven't had to use one yet in this building, but I'm glad I read this. I have to check it out now, I am unfamiliar with this model. I surely have done it wrong elsewhere.

    Oh and I always grab the doorknob with a paper towel, but I always carry the paper towel out to a trash can with me. I will keep an eye out for the culprit.


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