… heed ’em if you need ’em.
“Keep this Toilet Clean” reads the sign directly over the open-to-the-bowels-of-hell pit into which I will pee before our hike to the largest freestanding arch in Arches National Park. Delicate Arch stands 64 feet high by 45 feet wide—nothing short of breathtaking!—and there will be no place to cop a squat along the heavily touristed 3+ mile round-trip journey over powdery-sand-coated stone punctuated by the occasional dead tree or struggling juniper.
I’ve never seen this sign before, and since it looks quite clean and new, I assume the following rules have recently become an issue for the brave folks who keep our comfort facilities usable. I laugh, take a photo, and break the first rule:
“Sit on the toilet during use.”
Nope. Not going to happen. There’s no way I’m going to allow a speck of my skin to touch the surface of something thousands of strangers have abused before me. Not even lining the rim with toilet paper will do in this case. I’ll squat, thank you very little, and hold my phone and the crotch of my pants away from danger as well. I’m pretty sure this is what I’ve trained for all those years in the Army. The perfect squat.
I have to think about the second rule because it takes me back to my childhood years:
“DO NOT stand on the toilet.”
While this might sound like a ridiculous rule—why would you stand on a toilet unless you needed to reach something high above it?—I do recall a youthful time when I had to “go” after hours of shopping with my Mum. There were no rules posted in public restrooms back then, and I remember being instructed to place me feet on the seat (I was young enough to be lifted onto it) and squat to do my business. It was awkward, for sure, and I remember fearing I might slip into the bowl.
I couldn’t have imagined the horror of an open-pit toilet at the time, and the thought of losing my balance and sliding into the Delicate Arch toilet—even just a foot, my foot—gives me the willies as I write these words.
I also remember my three months in Korea supporting a military exercise and wonder if this rule is meant to assist the predominantly Asian tourists we’ve encountered this week. The public restrooms along our bus route in 1989 had holes on the floor with footprints painted on either side. You can read about how I almost started an international incident one day in my story Battle-Dressed Breasts (in Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Woman).
In any case, the rule makers don’t need to fear my feet, or hands, or any other body part coming in contact with their toilet.
The third rule is—hands down—the best (but there will be no hands down, either):
“DO NOT use the floor. Use the toilet.”
I glance around me and am happy to note this rule has been followed, at least so far today. Then I look down the hole into which I’m preparing to pee (don’t ever look down those holes!) and wonder if peeing in a corner might be preferable after all. But I do follow this rule.
After I say “Eeeew!” out loud, the fourth rule makes me laugh because I start to imagine other creative ideas:
“Put used toilet paper in the toilet.”
I envision a 3-D collage lining walls and ceiling in varying shades of brown. I will say no more about this rule. I have said too much already.
The last rule, the rule that is likely the bane of every honeysucker’s existence, is one I’m quite certain many users won’t follow:
“DO NOT put trash in the toilet. Use the trash can.”
They won’t follow this rule because they’ve already done unmentionable things. And they’ve looked down the hole. They may even have forgotten to secure things in pockets pulled down too quickly.
They’ve seen things, things that will haunt them the rest of their lives. Things they’ll write stories about someday. They’ll make the trek to Delicate Arch and try to forget what they’ve seen. They’ll take pictures, many pictures, and post them on Facebook and send them to friends who wish they could be there breathing the clean air and watching the birds float on air currents overhead . . .
But the picture that will forever clog their internal hard drives will be the horror . . . the horror, of what they’ve seen in that hole! *
* Thanks to Joseph Conrad for inspiring my final words.