October 2, 2020
Public bathrooms aren’t fun for anyone. They don’t smell the best, are infested with germs, and are almost never in a convenient spot. Despite popular portrayal, girl’s bathrooms aren’t sweet-smelling and sparkling. I could tell you horror stories about bathrooms, blood included, but that’s not what we’re going to delve into today.
Have you ever stopped to consider how much worse these public germ-containers are for the blind? Now, I don’t presume to speak for anyone, and my experiences don’t represent the whole of the blindness community, but for me, public bathrooms are a horror come to life. I’m not just talking the bathroom itself; I’m including the procedures, rules, and social faux pas that accompany the existence of it. Let’s explore this living nightmare, shall we?
When you’re in an unfamiliar building, it’s hard to find any room. The bathroom is no exception to this. For someone who can see, it’s a no-brainer to scan the walls for helpful signs that point you in the direction of the nearest restroom. For me, I don’t have this luxury. Sure, I could use audio cues as I walk around searching for the elusive culprit, or I could even feel along the walls for braille signage. But let’s face it; who has the presence of mind to do that when they gotta go? So, I end up having to ask someone where the bathroom is.
If I’m just passing by someone with the question, I guess its not that embarrassing, but imagine the horror of having to interrupt a meeting to ask someone where the bathroom is. I start to feel like an elementary schooler asking for the bathroom pass. Then, everyone knows you gotta go, and that just makes the whole experience unpleasant.
One of my biggest potty-related fears is walking into the men’s room by accident. I’ve had enough close calls in my life to warrant a mental tactics planning session wherein I orchestrate a manly disguise if I ever find myself in the horrifying position of doing my business in a men’s bathroom.
It’s not the fact that I’m going next to a man. That doesn’t bother me at all, and I’m totally down for gender neutral bathrooms whenever we decide to come to our senses as a country and realize that peeing and pooping shouldn’t require a whole controversy over who you do it next to. Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. I’m just fearful of the looks/reactions this mishap might incur. No one likes being embarrassed. Sure, my blindness has caused me to be in so many embarrassing plights that I should be used to it by now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try to avoid said embarrassing situations every chance that I get.
I’m a guide dog user, and anyone who’s ever had a dog in their lives knows two things: dogs are overly friendly and don’t quite understand the term “personal space” and they will follow people to the ends of the earth, which happens to include bathrooms. Let me set the scene. I gotta go. Once I power through finding the bathroom and entering the one that I feel I belong in, I make my way to a stall. My faithful, furry companion is by my side as we enter. I begin to do my business when I here someone else walk in and take the stall next to me. I ignore them, but my lovable mut feels the need to welcome them with a nice furry face under the stall opening.
No, thank God this hasn’t happened to me, yet. But like other embarrassing circumstances, I’ve had a lot of close calls. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re afraid your dog is going to make the person in the next stall over die of a heart attack.
In short, public bathrooms suck. I could come up with a hundred other non-blindness-related reasons why avoiding these things are in everyone’s interest. Perhaps I might write another post with said reasons. Anyways, I want to know what some of your public bathroom nightmares are. Post them in the comments.