History Repeating Itself.
When I was about 9, my parents took my siblings and me on a cross country trip from Ca. to NYC and back again in a VW Vanagon. I remember so much about that trip…all the new foods, places, and people that I saw along the way. I will forever be changed because of it, and not just because of those memories but because I will never use the bathroom the same way again.
My mom was extremely diligent with our health/safety/cleanliness. This was no small feat considering we were camping in a van and using only KOA Kampgrounds with the occasional truck stop bathroom to do our daily grooming. Our routine was streamlined for potty breaks: enter the stall ALWAYS WEARING SHOES, put the toilet cover down, in case of no toilet cover use folded over toilet paper, hover over the top of lined toilet seat WITHOUT TOUCHING ANYTHING and do your business.
This squat-like position for peeing insured that we wouldn’t get any germs on ourselves while in there. You might say, “but that’s what the toilet cover is for!” but you’d be wrong. The toilet cover was the first line of defense but not a reliable one. What if it shifted? What if the germs seeped up and got through somehow? Who can validate the sterility of the lining or toilet paper in the first place?!?! The only sure way to exit as clean and sanitary as I entered was to hover squat over the seat and pee as quickly as possible because OH MY GOD THE BURN! The quad muscles were really fired up, I can tell you that. After only 30 seconds the legs would burn and start trembling. Heaven help me if I had to do anything other than pee, if you know what I’m saying. I would end up bracing myself with my hands against the sides of the stall to help me keep my hover squat position. My hands were now covered in germs but that’s why I was trained to do the operating room doctor hand scrub on my way out of the bathroom.
For years after that trip, which lasted about a month, I couldn’t go into any bathroom without putting down the lining AND the folded over toilet paper (at 9 I was a little confused with the routine so covered all my bases) before then doing the hover squat. Years meaning until I was in college. Eventually I didn’t do the double cover in bathrooms, but still kept up the hover squat. And actually, I still do the hover squat to this day. In public bathrooms, I do it. In your bathroom I would do it. In my own freaking bathroom, I do it. It takes me some real effort to talk myself in to possibly contaminating my ass region with toilet seat to upper leg contact. But you should see my quads!
When Sassy was about 9, I took her and her siblings on a cross South American trip, from Argentina to Peru. She saw so many things along the way…new people/places/foods galore! I’m sure she’ll never forget a lot of it. But she has been changed in one remarkable way. And, like me, it has to do with her behavior in the bathroom. First, here’s a typical South American bathroom…this one somewhere in Chile:
This makes the KOA Kampground/truck stop bathrooms look like sterile hospital rooms, no? We paid about .30 to use this one, for which we got entrance and a wad of toilet paper. We got into the habit of carrying around our own toilet paper in our backpacks as well as a package of tissue paper in our pockets since it doesn’t come free over there. And now, 3 months after getting back, if I put leggings on Sassy her first reaction is, “BUT MOM WHERE AM I GOING TO PUT MY TOILET PAPER WHEN THERE ARE NO POCKETS?!?!”
But alas, that’s not the only change. Oh no. If you look at the picture you will see toilet paper in the clogged toilet and toilet paper in the garbage. In South America, used toilet paper always goes in the garbage. Otherwise, you get clogged toilets. The pipes aren’t equipped to handle any other shit besides…well, shit. So. For 3 months I kept reminding her, “Remember to put your used toilet paper in the garbage when you’re done!” Not wanting to scar her bathroom behavior like mine was, I refrained from teaching her the hover squat and let the folded toilet paper barrier on the seat suffice.
Now we’re home, and this is our bathroom. I was going to replace the toilet paper roll to make it look like we never ever leave an empty one on the spot where the new roll should go, but what the hell. Real life! Also, the balloon makes for a festive potty break.
Notice the garbage full of toilet paper? Used toilet paper? Yep. Some habits die hard. The other kids and I have gleefully made the switch back to casually tossing our toilet paper into the bowl when we’re done.
But Sassy, oh Sassy. She’s at that crucial age where apparently your bathroom habits are set for life. So now she will always, or at least until college, toss her used toilet paper into the nearby garbage.
It’s like history repeating itself, except I alone have legs as strong as bulls.