Much Ado About The Loo (A Reflection On and About Public Restrooms, Among Other Things)

I remember Spider-man whining about how having superpowers is both a blessing and a curse.

You know what I think is both a blessing and a curse? PUBLIC RESTROOMS.

Public restrooms provide the momentary, but immediate and much-needed comfort and relief. It’s not meant to, but it often serves as a witness and venue for when certain matters/issues need to be dealt with privately. Most of the time, at least in my case, it is where I get the most meaningful reflections and the best creative ideas for writing. Am I the only one who reflects, meditates, or composes essays while peeing?

Public restrooms are a blessing.

All these are quickly disregarded though when you chance upon a public restroom smelling foul. While I know it’s not supposed to smell like your own bathroom, I feel the smell should at least be neutral or clean. Or like a bathroom cleanser, maybe? The foul smell assures you the place has not been properly maintained, and that the stench will more or less stick to your clothes better than magnet on steel. The smell is an assault to the senses. Scratch that. The smell and appearance are an assault to the senses.

One restroom I frequent was recently renovated, and with that came a few new facilities. It now has a huge mirror. The tiles have been changed, too. Gone are the yellowish-used-to-be-white ones it once had. The cubicle doors are likewise brand new, with fully-functioning locks. Gone are the days when I had to hold onto the door while semi-squatting on the toilet. That, by the way, is every woman’s hidden talent. Take a bow, ladies.

Blessings, right?

Not quite. Not with the additional provision of bidets in every cubicle. This one’s a menace. A menace, I tell you.

But first, a brief vocabulary lesson. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word ‘bidet’ as “a bathroom fixture used especially for bathing the external genitals and the anal region.” It’s clear which part of one’s body bidets are meant to clean. And although I understand why this particular fixture was provided, I can’t help but also think how bad of an idea it is, particularly in a public restroom. I, for one, feel it’s very unhygienic to have or use bidets in public restrooms, but that’s just me. And this is even assuming, bidets are used properly – correctly. Here’s a thought: what if it is not?

Since the renovation and the installation of bidets, I have never seen this particular restroom this filthy. The cubicle floors are always flooded with puddles of water, and the seats are always doused with a mixture of water and urine. With all the amount of water, err –liquid, you see, you’d think at least the inside of the toilet is clean, right? I give people way too much credit and benefit of the doubt, I know, because it seems with the newly-installed bidets, people have forgotten how to use the toilet flush. Of course, the sink counter is not spared. It would take a whole of effort to leave the restroom with a dry shirt after brushing your teeth.

Unrest and discomfort.  Curses!

From public restrooms and other office or school facilities, to social media, free speech and expression, suffrage – these are all reasons to be thankful. Blessings. If only we do not abuse them. Curses.

But borrowing the words of Uncle Ben in Spider-Man, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Just like with everything you own, have, and enjoy, you have to value it, take care of it, and respect everyone else who uses or has it. You lose that, then everything just plainly becomes a curse, for you and for everyone else.

I still use this particular restroom, mainly because more often I don’t have a choice but to. I still wish for a day when I get to see it in pristine condition, meaning no stench, no unrecognizable liquid in sight — a place that can actually live up to its name — a comfort room.

 

But until then, as with everything else (other public facilities, social media, free speech and expression, suffrage), I will continue to proceed with care and caution, I continue to arm myself with enough toilet paper, (p)wet wipes, and alcohol with every visit.

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Jitters

Every year since I finished high school, around March and April, I get constantly bothered by an uneasy feeling. I usually get fast and hard thumps on my chest and a troubled tummy. I get anxious, nervous, and fearful that something bad is about to happen even when there’s none. It has become so much of a normalcy that I already have a name for it — “End of the School Year or Graduation Season Woes.”

I finished high school in 1995, but I did not graduate. I studied at a non-graded school, from Kindergarten to Senior High, where students learn and master lessons at their own pace, and unlike other schools, students do not receive numerical grades (during our time, at least), but rather checks (if passed) and squares (if failed).

Unfortunately for me and to make a long sad story short, I was not able to finish all my (graduating) requirements on time and graduate with the rest of the batch because of poor choices and priorities. To make things worse, I kept everything from my parents.

I fooled around instead of prioritizing my studies. I lied to my parents even up to the point when I already knew things had gotten worse, and I already needed (their) help. 

I lied to my parents, humiliated them, and broke their hearts and trust in me.

In order not to repeat my graduating year though and still be able to enrol for freshman college on time, my mom had to practically beg teachers to allow me some time to finish all my requirements. I was given only a week and a half to finish a year’s worth of Physics, Trigonometry, and Geometry. A year’s worth in a week and a half. 

I was dang lucky enough to even be given another chance, so finish, I did. And I was able to enrol for college the same time as everyone else.

Every time I’d share this story, people are left in awe at how I was able to accomplish all those in less than two weeks. What they fail to see though is how and why it had come to that. I fooled around and lied. I chose to have fun and defy my parents. Plain and simple — there’s absolutely nothing amazing about that, at all. And if given the chance, I wouldn’t want to go through it again; I would do things differently. I may have learned lessons from it later on, but the difficulties and hurt I had put my parents in, are totally not worth it.

That’s why, after all these years, I still get these bothersome feelings around graduation season. It reminds me of a time when I was at my most foolish self. It reminds me of a time I hurt the two people, who despite the betrayal and lies, still chose not to leave me alone to deal with the mess I have made for myself, and forgive me for it.

And I guess that’s also why, after all these years, I continue to share this story, not just so that others may somehow learn from it, but also, in the hopes that with every re-telling and sharing of the story, I learn to forgive myself as well.

*Photo borrowed from the internet.

Purpose and Clarity

In one of the personnel discipline cases I was reviewing yesterday, the respondent was complained for, among other things, being hired as a legal editor, one who not only checks on  the grammar usage in draft orders, resolutions, memoranda, etc., but also helps in researching on and reviewing cases. Of all the allegations raised against said respondent, this particular one hit close to home — it’s the same work I am currently doing.

The complaint raised many allegations, some of which I later found out were valid although taking a jab at someone for the task she was hired for, was a bit uncalled for.

For one, the complaint itself was FULL of grammatical errors, something English teachers and grammar nazis would have a field day on. I found it a bit funny how the complainant, who is a legal officer, questioned the need to hire a person, who would do “such a lowly job to correct people’s grammar.” Dear, IT IS  because of legal officers like you, who write and express their thoughts like you do, that people like me get hired, in the first place. Still, I find the need to thank you for your existence though, for without you, I wouldn’t have a job. You see, we work as a team. You draft your ideas, and I help you improve it. Our goal is to speed up the resolution of cases without compromising quality. Unfortunately, you do not see it that way, and that’s what makes it sad. That’s what makes us not accomplish our goals. And even if we do, we do so ineffectively and tediously.

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Then we see something like this signage from a school in Cagayan de Oro, which reads: “LOVE AFFAIR WILL SURELY DESTROY THE LIFE OF A YOUNG LADY STUDENT THEREFORE THIS INSTITUTION PROHIBIT INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A MALE AND FEMALE STUDENTS.”

Oh, where do I even begin? I understand the concern and the need to address such a pressing matter among the youth (pre-marital sex and teenage pregnancies), but based on the signage, I have doubts if this was a well-thought out policy to begin with.

More than the grammatical errors though, it is the underlying message that gets to me. What kind of message are you trying to send teenagers with “love affair will surely destroy the life of a young lady student.” I understand how poor choices can and may lead to failure, but destroy? How sure are you? And what right do you have to assume such consequence?

“This institution prohibit(s) intimate relationship(s) between (a) male and female students,” — does this mean students may engage in same sex relationships? I see no problem with that, in promoting equality, but please, re-think the wording of your school policy.

What’s most striking, for me though, is the last sentence of a news article that reads, “Last school year, six students were expelled from the school for violating the prohibition.” Again, I see the need to address such concern, but why must we stop these teenagers from finishing their studies despite and because of what has happened to them? If our role is to educate, nurture, and be the source of knowledge for the youth, then why are we suppressing them of their right to learn, grow, and make something of their lives? If the student, despite the ‘unfortunate’ circumstance of getting pregnant, or violating such prohibition, expresses the desire and willingness to finish his/her studies, why deny them of a chance or an opportunity to ‘correct a wrong’ or have a second try at life? Do we, as adults, actually have a right to deny them of such?

If we intend for the youth, or everyone for that matter, to appreciate the value of responsibility, then as policy makers, we should be the first to embody such trait. Clearly, even with well-meaning policies such as this, when constructed poorly and irresponsibly, it loses its purpose and significance.