I don’t know what it is about public restrooms but I get into an inordinate amount of awkward situations in them. I get into a fair amount of awkward situations in general but lately it seems like a disproportionate number of them happen in public restrooms. Why is that? Is it due to a lack of maintenance that the locks fail to function properly? Or was the person occupying the stall in such a hurry to get to their business that they didn’t have time to lock the door?

Whatever the reason, I have caught a lot of people with their pants down. Literally.

I don’t get it. It’s not like I look for these opportunities; I don’t enter public restrooms while eagerly scouting the likeliest stall in which to spring an attack on my latest victim. But for reasons which defy logic, the stall I choose will appear to be unoccupied…until I push the door open and the occupant greets me with some combination of: a surprised gasp, shocked but silent mortification, or a death stare plainly demanding why I have yet to close the door and leave them to their privacy. I once had a woman look calmly over and politely ask me to give her a minute as she wasn’t yet finished—as if this happened to her all the time and it was no big deal that I was standing there gaping at her bare bottom sitting on its porcelain throne.

I, of course, always respond in the same way—with stammered apologies and attempts to back out of the invaded stall with a modicum of grace. Sometimes I succeed, but more often than not, the encounter ends as gracelessly as possible and involves a lot of fumbling with door handles.

But seriously, people, you cannot be that surprised at the intrusion. If a stall appears to be available, someone will try to occupy it. Even if it looks like there’s someone already in there, people have been known to try to push their way in anyway. Because, you know, in case they made a mistake and those weren’t actual human legs they saw under the door.

Then there are the times I’ll walk into a public restroom to find someone in various stages of inebriation. This usually only causes awkwardness for me, since I highly doubt the drunk girls passed out on the floor know or care that they are public spectacles. Ditto for the conscious ones that are mostly only partially coherent. The reason this causes awkwardness is mainly due to the fact that by some variation of Murphy’s Law which I never quite understood, this will tend to happen in those places where there is only one stall in the ladies’ room. (Note to the architect/building planner who declared a single stall to be sufficient in any public restroom: it’s not.) Or if by some miracle there is more than one stall, the other will more than likely be out of commission by that time due to an unfortunate combination of overuse and under-flush. Depending on how urgent my needs are, such predicaments typically result in some waffling over whether or not to drag the drunk girl(s) out of the functional stall…and inevitably end with either me holding it until I get home, or we leave immediately in search of better lavatory prospects.

|| Side note: Every time I see one of these girls, I make a mental note to never ever get that drunk in public. (Don’t get me wrong—I have been publicly intoxicated too, just not to the point where I feel the need to lay down in a restroom stall. Mostly I just hug and touch people a lot while telling them repeatedly how much I adore having them in my life.) Whether or not a friend is there to help hold your hair back, that is the least of your worries should you ever be so plastered as to have to sit or lay on the floor of a public restroom. First of all, you’re likely not the only one who’s had a drink or five and decided to visit the loo. Things happen when people have more alcohol than they can handle—not the least of which is a reversal of fortune of their entire stomach contents, which doesn’t always make it neatly into a receptacle. Secondly, it’s a bathroom. Think about what people go in there to do. Plus there is alcohol involved, which greatly increases the possibility that something will miss its intended target and end up on the floor. Which you’re now sitting on. At the risk of stating the obvious: it’s gross. Please don’t do it. ||

These are not situations I seek out every time I enter a public restroom. Contrary to popular belief, I am also just there to do what people do in restrooms. Preferably in peace and most definitely in private. Trust me, sometimes I think how much easier my life would be if I could just hold it until I get home every time.

But as everyone knows..when you gotta go, you gotta go. Just make sure to lock the door—and check the floor—when you do.

|| Update 28.06.2014: So tonight I walked in on a guy, mid-stream. This may be a first. Just to clarify, this was in a cafe with a single unisex restroom and he didn’t even bother to shut the door all the way, let alone lock it. I hope he didn’t get any on himself from the surprise. ||