Jason Offutt teaches journalism at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville.
At some point, everyone experiences something life-changing. Sometimes it’s because of a traumatic event, sometimes it’s because you’ve read a really neat book, and sometimes it’s because you suddenly discover you’re not hard of hearing, you just needed to cut your hair.
My life-changing event happened because I was in public and had to go to the bathroom.
Using a public bathroom is uncomfortable enough, partially because you never know who’s going to be in there, partially because you have no idea where the facilities are, but mainly because there’s always the chance something life changing will happen and you certainly don’t want it to happen in a public bathroom.
My life-changing event happened when I walked by the women’s bathroom and the door was open.
I froze. It was like one of those movies where a portal opens to another dimension. I’ve never seen that dimension – Womentoiletopia. I had no idea what it was like in there.
Can’t look, can’t look, can’t look, ran through my head because in modern America, Womentoiletopia is actually called the Sexual Harassment Zone, so I wasn’t supposed to look.
To a guy who’s minding his own business, not intending to walk by the women’s restroom and finding the door open, this is like getting free tickets to a ball game. So, unless I’d opened that door with my mind …
Wait, I didn’t open the door with my mind, did I? No, I’m pretty sure I was thinking about football.
… I was perfectly safe from any potential lawsuits.
There was, thankfully, a wall separating my view from the place where people do their business, so what I saw was mostly just pale green. Mostly. Inside the door and sticking out from a corner were a desk and a chair.
A desk and a chair?
This was my life-changing event. A guy’s bathroom is white and gray and usually a bit on the cool side. The only chairs were ones with handles and there were no desks anywhere.
Ladies, what do you do in public bathrooms? Your taxes? Do you write long letters to old friends about how clean the facility is and, Jane, you really should drive down here and try it? Is it an emergency desk? Did I miss the sign, “In case of mice, jump here”?
I stood for a second in the kind of baffled state grazing animals get whenever they see anything at all.
What possible use could a desk and chair have in a women’s toilet?
I snapped out of it and walked away from the open door before I got arrested.
But I had to ask, what else is in women’s bathrooms that should be in other parts of the building?
The answers bothered me.
Some women’s bathrooms have a couch, others have comfortable chairs and end tables for holding up books and magazines and ferns.
These are not bathrooms. They’re lounges. Stick a wet bar in one and it would be a members-only club.
Ladies, I’m sorry I saw Womentoiletopia, but your world doesn’t belong to my universe. I’d like you to put it back in whatever dimension it came from … or at least keep the door shut.