I think my fascination for public washrooms started one night when we were all eating at Gretchen's Gourmet Grille. I didn't know Jason then, but who knows, maybe he was the guy who served us and spit in my food when I answered, "Yes," to his "fries or salad with that?" He must've thought, "What a funny guy!" as he aimed at the coke I ordered.
Being a good little boy, before eating, I went to wash my hands in Gretchen's washroom. Now, washrooms are like a woman's new hair-do. Your girlfriend just spent 5 hours at the hairdresser's, got some fancy hair-style, curls, a cut and the rest, and comes back home, but doesn't say anything. She expects you to notice and gets mad if you don't. It's like a clean washroom. You enter, you use it, and you leave. You don't notice it's clean. You expect it to look clean, much like your girlfriend's hair: it looks good. So, if it looks good, you don't sit there and examine it. Nothing particularly outrageous was able to strike me in that limited nanosecond I glanced at her and acknowledged her presence, much like a clean washroom.
But Gretechen's washrooms were not just dirty. They were beyond the definition of "incredibly filthy". The walls might've been painted at one time, but they were a heterogeneous shade of gray. The sinks had adopted their own livery from a faded creamy white to streaks of yellow-reddish rust. The faucets had lost their chrome, and the less said about the urinals, the better. I'll just say that Gretchen's toilets probably didn't even know what Javex was.
It's a shame that the English language, for as beautiful as is, lacks some colourful definitions I have learned over-seas, in Rome to be exact. You see, in Roman dialect, there are two definitions for washroom. One is bagno. Literally it means "bath". It is usually used for washrooms which follow a certain standard of hygiene and are usable without the risk of getting fifteen randomly placed diseases, just because you touched the tap. The other definition is cesso (pronounced something like "CHESS-OH!"). Cesso too stands for "bathroom", but it is used to warn a user about to use the facilities, from one that has just arrived from them, in what state they are. When you are informed that "It's a cesso," you know it's not going to be pretty.
I think that if I had ever needed a standard for which to judge all cessos I had finally found one. Not even the toilet in Trainspotting looked this bad.
The worse part is that the two people in front of me who finished relieving themselves of their bladder expansion, just went out without washing their hands. I sat there looking at the door. It's amazing--and it's not just Gretchen's--how you have to push a washroom's door to get in, which you can do, say, with your foot. But you have to pull on the handle, the same handle touched by zillions of guys who didn't wash their hands, to get out.
At this point you can either look for some toilet paper to help you in the difficult task or, since usually there is never toilet paper in places such as this, to wait patiently for someone to come in.
Not too long ago it was my friend, our respective girlfriends, and me, all sitting at this restaurant after watching some movie. My friend's girlfriend looked at mine and said, "I'm going to the washroom, want to come with me?" and off they went. They didn't reappear but 20 minutes later giggling together like old friends (they had known each other less than 3 hours, if you count the time spent in the movie theatre).
What the hell did they do in that washroom? Women seem to use restrooms as social lounges. Men in a restroom will never speak a word to each other. "Dan, I'm going to the washroom to take a leak. Interested in joining me?" will never happen. I go and I come back in the span of maybe 5 minutes. We go in, pull the zipper down, stare straight ahead, observing with minuscule and painful detail all the grooves that hold those tiny little tiles against the walls, pull the zipper back up, ouch, leave.
In school washrooms were lotsa fun. Beside a large variety of phone numbers I could collect of easy girls, it seemed much like some propaganda room during the second world war: this gang will kick that gang's ass, so and so is a clown, comments on professors, or that the washroom belonged to the Beanery Gang. What gang in their right mind would want a school washroom as part of their territory? And of course, how can we forget all the drawings of naked women in the stall's walls? Actually, drawing refers to something remotely artistic. Sometimes it took a good five minutes to figure out that the scribble in front of me was that of a headless woman, with no feet or hands, but a giant vagina and breasts. Whatever turns you on, I guess.
But the thing that really got to me was the hand-written scribble above the urinal: "Don't look here, the joke is in your hand". And since this funny clown didn't want to give a chance to anyone, he wrote it on every urinal and every toilet of every washroom of every floor. I wonder if his bladder exploded after a while...