I spent the past week traveling… first for work, then a couple of extra days for leisure and fun. When we R.W.’s go out on the road (or air), we have to live via the mantra of “expect the unexpected.” We do our very best to plan ahead and be as prepared as possible, yet the only thing that is guaranteed is there will be events for which we did not plan, or that are out of our control. For example:
No matter how much we’ve over-packed, we will forget something. Or there will be some item we wish we had brought with us, but didn’t.
There will be a crying child on the airplane.
There will be someone coughing and hacking and spreading their germs near us – perhaps in an elevator, at a restaurant, or on public transportation.
At some point there will be a food item and no way to eat it. For example, a bag of trail mix that won’t open (with not a pair of scissors in sight), or a cup of yogurt with no spoon, or a soda with a cap that won’t come off.
The available WiFi will be sporadic at best, and will crap out mid-way through an important email or when attempting to post the perfect picture on Instagram.
There will be a required visit to CVS or Walgreens. — for something. Like allergy medicine, band-aids, tweezers, Airborne, bottled water, a magazine, sunscreen or chocolate.
An impulse purchase will be made for an item that will never be used, worn, or played with ever again upon arrival back home.
There will be at least one minor crisis back home that we will have to handle long-distance as if we are air-traffic controllers or online M.D.’s who are always on call.
A full un-interrupted night of sleep will be unobtainable due to temperature issues, elevator noise, other guests, foreign food & drink digestive issues, or lumpy pillows. But that’s ok, because R.W.’s never get a full night’s rest at home either.
In my travels this week, I determined there is one particular microcosm of an environment that is an especially good example of consistent inconsistencies, to which we need to be best prepared for the experience: public restrooms.
When stepping into a public potty, we can be guaranteed that:
They will smell. In unappealing ways.
There will be at least one toilet in a stall that is not flushed and/or is plugged.
There will be at least one stall that will have run out of toilet paper.
The auto-flush toilet will flush at an inopportune time.
At least one of the auto faucets at the sinks will not be working, causing us to wave our hands around like some sort of bad magician, while the auto soap dispenser gets confused and keeps squirting out soap all over the sink.
The hand air-dryer will either be too weak to do it’s job thus causing us to shake our hands or wipe them on our pants, or so strong it is deafeningly loud and threatens to remove skin, OR the nearby paper towel dispenser is empty, thus causing that odd two-step of holding our bags under our arms or between our knees, holding our dripping hands out in front as we shuffle to retrieve a towel at the farthest location in the room.
And of course, let us not forget the most common factor: there will be a line. The awkwardness of the women’s restroom line is not unlike riding in elevators – we must decide whether to avert our eyes, do a nod-and-smile form of greeting, or strike up a friendly conversation – all while casually trying to peek under doors to find available stalls and hoping to get one that does not have a plugged toilet or lack of paper.
The joy of travel is that at some point we return home, to our own private, familiar environs where we feel a bit more in control and can manage expectations. Well, maybe not really in control, but at least we will have our favorite non-lumpy pillows, maintain the cleanliness of our own surroundings, refill the toilet paper roll and flush when appropriate.
That’s right, Dorothy. There’s no place like home.