As a frequent “road tripper”, shopper, and driver, I often have to use public restrooms. Yesterday, I used the restroom in a Best Buy store. Typically, this restroom is clean, but on this day it reminded me of a gas station restroom. Paper towels and toilet paper were all over the floor; urine and water were all on the floor; and the sink was covered in soap, water, and paper towels. It was like I showed up right after a field trip went through. This experience reminded of me why I have an S.O.P for public restrooms. That’s right I have my own Standard Operating Procedures for public restrooms.
My family lives in Michigan, but we are from Chicago. We travel home often enough. Our rest stops are chosen based on safety and the cleanliness of the restrooms. No matter where I am I follow my procedures to minimize the transference of invisible parasites.
Never touch any handle or door knob with your bare hands.
The only exception is when going into the restroom.
If you need to use a stall, always ensure that you pick one that has toilet paper.
Nothing worse than taking a seat, handling business, and then realizing you have to put out a distress call for toilet paper.
Never sit on a bare toilet seat.
Always have a barrier between yourself and the seat. Toilet seat covers or toilet paper works well.
Never shake anyone’s hand in the restroom.
I would also never shake anyone’s hand that recently exited the restroom.
Never sit anything on the floor.
You will end up leaving with more than you arrived with.
Always have a layer between your child and the changing station.
You should clean the changing station before you use it. You never know what other parents left behind.
Always wash your hands prior to leaving.
It does not matter what you did, number 2, 1, or 0. The mere fact that you walked into the restroom necessitates a trip to the sink.
At all costs avoid any events in which a port-o-potty is the only option, unless hazmat suits are available at your local retail store. Most of these portable restrooms do not have places where you can wash your hands. Hand sanitizer cannot kill everything.
I enter the restroom and scan the room. I map out the entire process. I look at cleanliness. Check the floor for any wet puddles and waste. I check to see if there are paper towels or hand dryers. I strongly dislike restrooms that do not have paper towel dispensers. This creates an additional problem for me. You will understand why in a minute. The one thing worse than a hand dryer is a classic towel dispenser.
Depending on what I need to do I will also assess the condition of the stalls. All of this advance inspecting helps me to determine if the bathroom is even usable. I go into Adrian Monk mode. Bathrooms that are hands-free are some of the easiest ones to use. After I mapped my method of escape I begin the process.
If you are headed to the urinal, utilize the receptacle and flush. Hopefully the unit has an auto flush. If there is no auto flush, go grab a paper towel then flush.
If you are using a stall, clean the seat to the best of your ability. If seat covers are not available, then use at least two layers of toilet paper around the seat. Once you are done flush the toilet. Hopefully the unit has an auto flush. If there is no auto flush, use your foot to press the handle. Also, use a piece of toilet paper to turn the handle and exit the stall. Think about this. Everyone else that used that stall has touched the door handle. No sense in taking their deliciousness with you.
Once you are ready to wash your hands it’s time to keep the end in mine. Grab a couple of paper towels and turn on the water. Use another paper towel so that you can turn the water off. Most people turn the water on with dirty hands and then use clean hands to turn off the water. Make sure that you have also prepped the paper towel dispenser to have a couple of paper towels ready to dry your hands. You can vary it up any way you want. Once your hands are clean grab the paper towels and dry your hands. DO NOT throw away the paper towels yet. Use those paper towels to open the door and exit the restroom. Once you have the door opened, prop it with your foot, and then score two points by shooting the paper towel into the trash. Your escape from the public bathroom abyss is complete.