Nov 11

A Restless Encounter in a Public Restroom

City Creek restroom 300x195 A Restless Encounter in a Public Restroom

City Creek in SLC. Very Zen. Except when you see a man in the women’s room. Then it just gets weird.

Last week I was washing my hands in a public restroom in City Creek (a shopping mall in SLC) when I heard the toilet flush in one of the stalls, and out came a toddler girl, followed by…a man. I must have looked incredulous, because the guy immediately started running at the mouth like a broken faucet.

“I’m so sorry, but I didn’t feel comfortable sending her in alone,” he babbled. “I waited until no one else was in here, but you must’ve come in after us.”

“I go on the big potty now,” the little girl proudly announced. And even though she didn’t seem stressed or upset to be with this man, I didn’t want to later read about how some guy had abducted a little girl at City Creek and they were last seen together near the women’s restroom at the food court.

“Where’s your mom?” I asked the little girl.

“In Provo,” she offered.

I casually planted myself in front of the exit, with a defiant posture that indicated he didn’t stand a chance against a mother’s instinct to protect a child (any child) against harm…especially the kind inflicted by someone bigger and stronger who knows better.

He instantly got the message.

“No, no, see we’re divorced, and this is my daughter and it’s my week, and well, she had to use the bathroom, and…”

“Why didn’t you take her with you into the men’s room?” I interrupted.

He screwed up his face like I’d just forced him to suck a lemon. “That’s disgusting. I don’t want my little girl around a bunch of half naked men. Plus, the urinal explanation alone would kill me.”

Well, he had me there. And the fact he was even concerned about this bode well for him.

“Daddy, don’t we have to wash our hands?” asked the little girl, completely oblivious to the standoff taking place.

No Rest for the Neurotic in a Restroom

“Mommy, I promise I’ll wash my hands!” I heard my toddler son’s squeaky voice say.

Suddenly I flashed back to a time at the Park City Library when my now-grown son Derrick was five years old. He was making a case as to why he was too old to use the women’s room with me.

“I want to go in the boys’ bathroom by myself,” he said defiantly.

Public Restroom sign 225x300 A Restless Encounter in a Public RestroomI protested, but he held his ground…and his “pee-pee,” which meant I’d better back down NOW because I didn’t bring any spare Thomas the Tank Engine undies.

I opened the men’s room door a crack and asked if anyone was in there. When no response came, I told Derrick to go in and that I’d be standing right outside if he needed me. He proudly entered while I prayed he wouldn’t touch anything that wasn’t attached to his body.

About 15 seconds later a man came down the hall and entered the men’s room. My heart stopped. What should I do? The guy didn’t look like a pedophile. Or did he? What the hell does a pedophile look like? Could I pick him out of a line-up? Crap, I don’t even remember what he looked like. What color was his hair? What was he wearing? I started to sweat profusely like I was going into shock.

And then my heart stopped because I heard the worst possible sound that could’ve assaulted my ears at that moment. “Mom! Help! Hurry, please, help me!”

I burst into that men’s room like I was shot out of a cannon. The man was standing at the urinal with his pants open, doing his business.

“Excuse me!” the guy protested indignantly.

“Yeah, no problem.” I replied dismissively without even looking at him, as I ran toward the stall from which my son’s voice was coming. Fortunately, Derrick had not locked the stall door, and when I flung it open I saw that he was perched on one side of the toilet seat, hanging on for dear life trying not to fall in.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized why he was calling for help. I quickly pulled him off the commode and cleaned him up. When we emerged from the stall, Mr. Grumpy Pants was poised to give me a verbal smack-down.

“Lady, you do realize this is a MEN’s room,” he yelled WAY too aggressively. “That means when men enter it they expect a certain level of privacy!”

Oh man, this dude had no idea what he was up against.

“Okay, first of all you’re lucky I didn’t come here swinging a crowbar with the assumption you were molesting my son. Second, unless your jewels are literally made of semi-precious stones, you haven’t got anything I haven’t seen before. And although I appreciate that you’re obviously not an exhibitionist, you are a hazard to your own health if you think you can stand between ANY MOM and her kid calling for help.”

I’m sure I had that cock-eyed, maniacal, I–will-break-you-in-half-with-my-bare-hands look. And I think I actually spit when I spoke. Wisely, he backed down and simply said, “I’m reporting you to the librarian,” and then stormed out.

Derrick looked at me concerned. “Mom, are we in trouble?”

I confidently smiled at him. “Nope. Don’t even worry about it.”

Experience Breeds Compassion

I looked at the little girl in the City Creek bathroom and suddenly realized how much she resembled her dad. “Yes,” I said to her. “You definitely should wash your hands.” I stepped away from the exit and looked at her father. He smiled and ushered his daughter to the sink where he supervised a good handwashing.

It’s weird. Even when your kids go from being little dependent creatures that think you’re the super-est of superheroes to big, hairy, smelly teenagers that only want to hang out with you when you’re paying, that instinct to protect wakes up when needed like a dormant fire-breathing dragon. Public restrooms were never scary places to me until I had kids. And now they will forever feel creepy. I can’t help it. Maybe deep down I really am just a crazy person at heart.

As the man and his daughter left, he turned to me and quietly said, “Thank you.”

I smiled to myself as I watched them leave. “You’re welcome,” I whispered back to an empty restroom.

Well, if I am crazy, at least I know I’m not alone.

Related Posts:

Public Restrooms and Other Parenting Problems by Defining Motherhood


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tmb 468x60 slow A Restless Encounter in a Public Restroom

Stacy Dymalski is an award winning keynote speaker and stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage. For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in bookstores and on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.


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  1. creatorofstuff

    From one mom to another: I loved this.

    1. Stacy Dymalski

      Thanks. I knew you would. And I know you can relate. :-)

      1. creatorofstuff

        Definitely. And not to get all creepy here since this is a funny blog, but there was a horrible incident with a little boy in a beach restroom in Oceanside years ago, and the little boy’s aunt was waiting right outside the door! That always haunted me. SO! Barging in is completely appropriate as far as I am concerned. And what the heck. A few snappy comebacks while doing so just make it better.

        1. creatorofstuff

          I mean “makes” it better.

          1. Stacy Dymalski

            I’ve spent my life apologizing for inappropriate outbursts. In fact, I’ve made a living at it. What’s one more for the sake of making sure a child is safe?

  2. dee peressini

    The guy had to appreciate that you were looking out for his kid. It’s not just bathrooms that are a scary, it’s the whole dang world.

    1. Stacy Dymalski

      You’re right, Dee. It IS a different world now. This dad was young enough that he grew up in the era of “Stranger Danger” so he gets it. The old coot who bitched me out in the men’s room when Derrick was little was of the time when kids left the house on a Saturday morning at 9 and nobody knew where they were until they decided to come home for dinner at 6. Yet no one worried. So the old coot just thought I was an inconsiderate nut case. Although he’s right (I am an inconsiderate nut case) I was also protecting my child.

  3. DefiningMotherhood

    My husband assures me that the men’s restroom is no place for a girl. I’ll have to tell him about this solution (but prepare him to be grateful to protective women he man encounter).

    This brought back flashbacks of the first time I had to send Son into a public restroom by himself: http://definingmotherhood.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/public-restrooms-and-other-parenting-problems/

    1. Stacy Dymalski

      Yes, I’ve since been told by many fathers that they don’t have the option of taking daughters into men’s rooms they way mothers can take sons into women’s rooms. So they either send their daughters in alone or do what this dad did and hope for the best.

      On another note, thank you so much, Kristina, for including the link to your blog about having to send your son to the public restroom alone for the first time. I’ve updated my story and included yours under “Related Posts.” I guess I’m not alone in my neurotic craziness when it comes to this incidence. A lot of parents have weighed in on this as one of their biggest concerns, even when their kids get a little older. My sons are now 15 and 18, and both well over 6′ tall, so I don’t worry anymore when they go to a public restroom, but now I worry for every OTHER little kid I see in a public restroom alone.

      1. DefiningMotherhood

        Thanks for the link Stacy. The more we all worry on behalf of children not our own, the better it gets for everyone. I’m glad to know that there are moms like you out there who will block my husband from the door until you are convinced he’s legit. :)

  4. 3kids2cats1divorce

    Creator of Stuff (above) must live in my neck of the woods — I remember that horrific murder, and as a result I brought my son into the women’s room until he was 10. After he was 10, I hovered outside the men’s room with the door cracked and stared down any guy trying to enter. This is a touchy subject,and I truly thank you for handling it with protectiveness, grace, *and* humor. You rock!

    1. creatorofstuff

      @3kids2cats1divorce – I think we were all so traumatized by that murder. My two boys were 8 and 11, so I, too was a “crazy” woman. Incidentally, the murderer, who was only 20 at the time, died a year ago in prison (he was hanging). At least we know he will never be paroled.

      Now! On to more happy thoughts!!!! :) :) :)

  5. Sandra Parsons

    I don’t know, being from Europe, stranger danger is probably a bit farther from my mind than if I would be American. I cringe at the thought of this poor dad who has to justify being with his own daughter every step he takes. A single mother would never have to suffer this sort of “Guilty until proven innocent” attitude. And just why are 2 minutes alone in a public restroom are more dangerous for our kids (or creepy for us) than letting them play outside unsupervised for an hour?
    I do agree on the girls in mens’ rooms issue though. When my little monster needs a wee I opt for the handicapped toilet whenever available. And I have argued in favour of unisex toilets for years, where urinals are placed in stalls as well. That would take care of some other problems as well such as the long queues outside the ladies while the gents are empty in theatres, cinemas, restaurants and other public places.

    1. Stacy Dymalski

      Right you are, Sandra. I lived in Paris for a short time as a teenager (exchange student in school) and the whole mentality about kids in public restrooms is different in Europe than the U.S. Over here kids tend to disappear from restrooms. I have to admit, it’s creepy. And yes, it’s sad that a single dad isn’t comfortable taking his toddler daughter into a men’s or women’s restroom. Either way, it leaves him open to scrutiny.

      I think the answer lies in exactly what you propose; unisex or family restrooms. Personally, it doesn’t bother me to see a little boy or a dad in a women’s restroom (there are stalls, no one can see anything), but I’ve raised sons and after that all modesty goes modesty goes out the window. But I know unisex restrooms aren’t for everyone. Which is why I think they should offer both. That’ll happen in Europe before the U.S. Our collective mentality over here is way too uptight for something so progressive. Although they do have family restrooms in Disneyland. What does that tell you? ;-)

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