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The restroom diaries

By Divya Nair
August 22, 2016 11:20 IST
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'Every time I resist using a public loo, I remember my mother warning me how I would develop a kidney problem.'
'Now, I tell her I'd rather not have a skin infection or some other disease brought by using one,' says Divya Nair.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Ever since I was a kid, I have hated the idea of visiting a public washroom.

The stench, the dirt and the lack of hygiene have proved strong recommenders of bladder control whenever I am travelling from one point to another.

Before you grimace at this outrageous topic and hunt for a few rotten tomatoes to hurl at me, let me tell you what inspired this column.

I work in a reputed organisation. My colleagues are well educated and come from respected backgrounds. There are four restrooms on the floor I work on. They are used by approximately 40 female colleagues. Statistically, that's one restroom for 10 women.

It's hard to single out anyone and make them accountable, but most of the time when I walk into the washroom, I have to navigate through strands of hair, spilt water and an overflowing garbage can. And the less said about wet door knobs, the better.

Since I am kind hearted, I'll spare you the details about the commode and toilet seat.

Some months ago, my colleague and I wrote down a list of instructions on how to use the restroom and pasted it inside each toilet, hoping good sense would prevail. Within a fortnight, the notice was torn off and things were back to being the way they are.

Somehow, I wasn't surprised.

In my previous organisation, I remember how a senior colleague had called an urgent meeting to address exactly these concerns -- how to use the toilet seat, why it is important to flush and leave the toilet seat dry for the next person and why you must wrap your sanitary napkins with care.

Why was it important?

A colleague had suffered from a serious case of infection which was traced to using unhealthy restrooms.

A year ago, a cousin told me that in her office, men and women use the washbasin (and not the bathroom) to clean their feet ahead of their daily prayers.

Every time I resist using a public loo, I remember my mother warning me how I would develop a kidney problem. Now, I tell her I'd rather not have a skin infection or some other disease brought by using one.

All the organisations I have worked for in the last seven years, I believe, have had a fair number of educated professionals, yet their hygiene standards leave a lot to be desired.

Over the years, I have learned to take a serious situation like this with a pinch of humour.

Allow me to amuse you with the ones that irk me the most...

The loo lockers

These species lose themselves in the comfort of a toilet's empty space and park themselves there till eternity.

It makes me wonder how anyone can have a tummy upset every other day!

I had read somewhere how a public loo in Japan would open its doors every 25 minutes -- reminding anyone who has ensconced themselves in there for that duration that the place does not belong to them.

I wish it applied to office loos as well.

The secret whisperers

Sometimes I enter the loo and fear I've seen a ghost.

Seconds later, I realise that someone is standing in a corner trying to have a private conversation.

Baby, I don't know who referred you this place, but can you please not make me feel like an intruder? It's hard to decide whether to stay or leave.

I don't want to hear your secret conversations or your family fights. Not in the loo, from where I cannot decide whether to shut my ears or my nose.

Here's a suggestion: If you really need privacy, take a short walk outside the office with your phone.

The water babies

From wet door knobs to wet toilet seats, there are girls who have probably never used a tissue or a hand dryer in their life; even when there is one available.

Thanks to these babies, you'll find so much water around the wash basin, and on the floor in the loo, that you'll sometimes wonder whether you've accidentally entered the shower.

The dabba cleaners

How does one deal with people who treat the washroom as their kitchen or dining table?

There should be a valid reason why leftover rice and dal from someone's lunch is in the washbasin. I am still wondering.

The toilet decorators

Without being too explicit: Flush, ladies, flush!

I just can't understand how some ladies don't mind dribbling liquids of various colours on the toilet seat; trust me, a toilet seat does not need decoration, it looks best clean.

The hair saga

My dad used to say hair looks good only on the head and ensure my mother and I always kept our hair tied. With all that hair I see in the restrooms, I assume someone is going to go bald soon!

Sarcasm apart, the reason I took time to post this is because I wish all girls took it upon them to spare a moment and changed the way they used the public washrooms.

Like my father once said: Always leave the place better for the one using it after you. It's a selfless service.

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Divya Nair / Rediff.com