I’ve been thinking about how the bathroom situation at our house has developed over the years. For 10 years or so we only had one bathroom for 11 people. It wasn’t that bad during the day, but near bedtime you’d have a whole line of people stretched across the kitchen. Rush hour, we called it. If you wanted a chance to pee before you went to bed, you’d either have to get in line really early or resign yourself to staying up late.
You would try to find ways to “slip through the cracks” – hovering around the bathroom door, waiting for a chance to dart in. The bathroom door would open, and you would think that you were home free. Just as you started to sneak in, someone would leap up from the kitchen table screaming “Oh, no you don’t! I’ve been waiting half an hour already!” They’d barge past you, whack you on the head with the magazine they’d been reading, and slam the door in your face. You would resume pacing around the kitchen counter. Many of the bumps and bruises the younger children got were from falling down after they made themselves dizzy while pacing around the kitchen counter. See, you wouldn’t really get dizzy if you just walked around and around at a moderate speed, but for those little ones, as the urge to use the toilet grew stronger and stronger, the rate at which they were circling the counter grew faster and faster, until eventually the dizziness would kick in.
And then there were the other tricks people would try to use so they didn’t have to wait so long. Like always trying to get in ahead of certain other people who always took forever. Unfortunately, I happened to be one of the people who took forever, so I always had people darting in ahead of me when it was really my turn.
But dad was much worse than me. He was without doubt the one person that you always wanted to be ahead of. I can remember more than once racing across the house and skidding into the bathroom seconds ahead of him. Because once he went in, he wouldn’t be out for a good 45 minutes. Catching up on his reading, I guess. It was like an evening ritual, really. The shoes came off as soon as he came in for the night, and over the course of the evening his belt would come off as well, and his shirt would come untucked. So when he stood up from whatever he was doing, his pants would be drooping, and he’d be holding them up with his hands as he shuffled toward the bathroom. This shuffling is what always saved you. It was slow enough that it gave you time to leap up, rush across the house ahead of him and get in so you wouldn’t have to go out back in the bushes or wait another hour.
As the years went by, Ben eventually did put on an addition with two tiny bathrooms. Tiny, yes. You can barely turn around in them. But there are two of them. I say that one is the girls bathroom and one is the boys bathroom. It only makes sense. The one that smells as if the toilet has never been flushed, that always has toilet paper but never has any soap or towels, and that doesn’t have a mirror is the boys bathroom. And the one where the dirty, stained mirror gives you a nice view of your stomach as you walk in the door (that mirror is responsible for starting more than one diet), where there is always three different kinds of soap (all scented) and five different shampoos and conditioners in the shower, but never any toilet paper; where there is usually a towel (however dirty and wet it may happen to be), but the toilet is always plugged, is, of course, the girls bathroom.