Monday, November 16, 2015

Manners Monday - All-Gender Bathroom Etiquette: Putting a Lid on Bad Behavior in the Loo

All-gender restrooms are all the rage. A New York Times article investigated this new normal and how educational institutions, restaurants, museums and other public entities are embracing an all-inclusive environment for everyone on the gender spectrum.

While this is certainly new territory with an important social message, the act of sharing a restroom space has always existed for those travelling by air.  In a tube 30,000 feet above sea level, there is no room for discrimination.  Everyone has equal access to the facilities and it isn't always pretty. Yes, there's nothing like a trip to the loo on an overcrowded plane.  The lethal combination of frayed nerves, fast food, and fixed quarters pretty much guarantees an unpleasant washroom experience. On a recent trip back to LA, one woman was holed up for so long we thought we'd have to call the paramedics. When she finally exited the laboratory, it looked like a war zone had erupted.  

The bathroom debate earned a spot on last weekend's Saturday Night Live with comedian Pete Davidson poking fun at how ladies - contrary to popular belief - tend to leave it particularly untidy. Trying to teach my own daughters good restroom behavior has been thoroughly exhausting. Why they can't be bothered to replace a roll of toilet paper or clean the sink, or put the seat cover down is beyond comprehension! 

So for my girls and everyone else (wherever you fall on the spectrum) let these societal changes inspire us to apply a renewed mindfulness to our bathroom etiquette. Here are ten essential tips to get you going in the right direction. 

1. Knock Before Entering.  All public restrooms have lock features either on the doors or individual stalls, but that doesn't mean they are in working order or that someone has remembered to use them. Always assume it is occupied.  When in doubt, double-check by simply listening intently or peering underneath the stall if you must. Whatever you do, don't just barge in.  

2. Use Seat Covers.  Disposable seat covers are available in some places, but not most. If you can't find a proper paper seat cover, create one of your own with a swath of toilet paper available. For goodness' sake, whatever you do, don't sit down on an uncovered toilet, you can catch hepatitis!

3. Apply Air Freshener.  If you've ever entered a restroom after someone's relieved their morning coffee bowel movement, you know how necessary this step is.  Only certain public bathrooms will have odor-killing aids. If it's there, please use it.  If not, a quick spritz of the free sample of perfume you have stashed in your purse will do.

4. Put a Lid On It. Not all public restrooms have toilet seats with lids.  If there is one visible, take the time to close it. First of all, it will help trap lingering odors from spreading. Secondly, it is good feng shui.  Putting the toilet seat down minimizes the loss of energy and money and who doesn't need that.  

5. Scrub those Hands.  Recalling a popular Seinfeld episode, at some point we've all beared witness to that restroom patron who skips the washing hands ritual altogether, does a quick once over in the mirror, and then bolts for the exit much to our horror.  Hopefully, you are not that person and that you soap up, but good before departing. 

6. Scour the Sink.  You would think the sink is made purely for washing hands, but that is not so.  I've seen all kinds of questionable business in public restrooms from people brushing their teeth to washing their feet.  Let's keep the public grooming to a minimum and in the rare event that you do utilize the sink for such use, have the decency to clean all evidence of hairs, food particles, dirt, and other grime from the scene.

7. Turn Water Off Completely.  While we're on the subject of sinks, let's discuss for a moment water usage. California is in the middle of a major drought, this should be enough of a reminder to use water with discretion. Check the faucet to make sure it is shut with no excess dripping before running out of the restroom. 

8. Place Waste in the Receptacle.  This is one of the greatest areas of contention when it comes to bathroom behavior and the one that comedian, Pete Davidson, above was referring to.  How many times have we seen bloody sanitary napkins, crumpled toilet seat covers, and soiled toilet paper thrown haphazardly onto the floor rather than carefully placed in the appointed waste containers?  Ladies, you are the worst offenders.  

9. Towels Go in the Hamper.  If you happen to wander into one of the finer public establishments such as a luxury hotel, you may encounter the hand towel in favor of the paper one. Enjoy it and relish in the soft luxury as it touches your skin and by all means, do not throw it into the wastebasket! This little cloth is reusable and should head straight to the laundry instead. Please take notice and put such articles into the hamper. 

10. Leave No Trace Behind.  Give the premises one good last look to make sure it is clean and that you didn't leave anything behind ((e.g., house keys, a cell phone, YOUR PURSE!). As with a digital footprint, we want to be conscious of leaving the restroom better for future use.  It is not only respectful to the patrons who follow, it is essential to maintaining good hygiene and health. 

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