Of all the emails that trickle through the cracks to and drip on my computer, the one that didn’t get flushed happened to be about a survey by Enviro-Master, a health and safety company, about what they call the risky business of using public restrooms.
So, if you’re thinking this is finally the column where I rely on toilet humor and use bathroom puns, then you’re right...sorry, I couldn’t think of a good bathroom pun because my mind is clogged--ahahahaaaa!
Anyway, the survey said 46% of people are using public restrooms less frequently than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that one in three people left the restroom because of lack of cleanliness, and 15%, which is less than half of a half of that half, admitted to holding their breath when using a public restroom to potentially avoid breathing in germs.
I crap you not; I know those numbers seem scary with the 1 and the 5 and 4--you could put an eye out on those sharp edges--but the good folks at Enviro-Master have offered some disturbing facts about public restrooms.
n The restroom is a small, enclosed space which studies show could harbor coronavirus particles for hours if an infected person was there.
n There are a lot of high-touch surfaces in a restroom that can get quickly contaminated like sinks, door handles, countertops, toilet seats, condom machines, etc.
n Most public toilets do not have lids, and I once believed many didn’t have bowls until I was informed I was incorrectly using the urinals. Anyway, every time a toilet is flushed, it ejects millions of tiny water droplets that travel up to 10 feet and land on all surfaces, creating opportunities for cross-contamination.
n Researchers have found that the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, can be shed in fecal matter for up to a month after the illness, and they’re not making that crap up.
Now I know why you have to ask for a key to go to a gas station restroom. It’s not to keep non-customers out, it’s to keep whatever dwells inside from leaving!
The study did offer safety tips like seeking out posted information that the restroom has been disinfected and treated with a hospital-grade germicide, bringing your own disinfecting wipes inside with you, touching nothing inside the restroom, be in and out of there before the germs know you’re there (or cross your legs and try to sweat it out in the car).
While all of that is sound advice, the whole thing sparked an anecdote I’d like to share, and a possible solution to the issue.
When I was in my 20s, I had a friend, and I won’t mention his name because, quite honestly, I don’t know what the statute of limitations are when it comes to public urination.
Anyway, a group of us would go out and no matter where we’d stop--at a restaurant, at a bar, at a bank or at a gas station to fuel up the getaway car--he would always urinate at the side of the building or behind the building. It didn’t matter if the building had a restroom inside or if there were a line of vacant portable restrooms outside the building, he always went outside like he was a dedicated street performer.
Also, he wasn’t afraid to use the restroom inside of the building if we were actually inside the building, so maybe it was the journey to and from to which he objected. Who knows?
Anyway, thinking of him and how he always seemed to be the most healthy one in our group of friends, it made me realize that perhaps we have to revert to answering nature’s call while we’re actually in nature to relieve ourselves of those issues and drain ourselves of those fears.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. You’re out in the open, there will always be more leaves than toilet paper at your disposal and you’re helping fertilize the outdoors like the forest, a nearby wooded area, your back yard, your front yard, your neighbor’s yard, your neighbor’s mailbox--the benefits are endless!
Trust me, I can spend all day piddling around on the health and wellness benefits of going to the bathroom outside, but, honestly, it’s been a long day, and I’m pooped.
Sorry, I had to push one more out.
Sorry, I had to squeeze that last one in there.
Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.
According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. His books, “Good Mourning! A Guide to Biting the Big One...and Dying, Too” and “Stupid Brain,” are available on Amazon.com. He co-hosts the “Locally Yours” radio show on WMBS 590 AM every Friday.