‘It’s like Venice for cockroaches’

Writer Chris Hunt dreads the day he’ll have to introduce his young son to the public men’s restroom.


I hate pee. It’s one of my least favourite things, ranking slightly worse than expired cheese, but slightly better than floor lamps.

I’ve always had a genuine disdain for it, but it blossomed into outright hatred when I discovered I was going to have a son.

During the first few months of my girlfriend’s pregnancy, I was frequently asked if I had a preference when it came to the sex of my unborn child.

I’d always answer with the generic and politically correct, “I don’t care. I just want my child to be born healthy.” Truth was I secretly wanted a boy because I could relate to a boy. A boy I could understand.

I could show him things, like how to play sports, how to respect women and more importantly, I could impart upon him the difference between “their” and “there” so he wouldn’t be obnoxious on social networking sites.

But the more I thought about teaching, the more I wanted a girl.

There are things a parent has to teach their children regardless of their child’s sex, but there is one thing I will have to teach my son that I would never have to teach a daughter: how to pee in a urinal.

Guys will understand this instantly, but women might not. You see, a men’s room is a far different place than a woman’s.

I should point out I’ve never been in a woman’s restroom, but every guy has the same idea of what one is like.

It’s a sweet place, a place of warmth. You can tell because the artistic rendition of a woman wearing a dress that gently adorns the door to the restroom is fun and inviting.

Inside there’s an assortment of baked goods and, depending on how classy the establishment, a variety cheese plate. Tasteful floral arrangements line the counter and scented candles burn brightly. It smells of lavender. Or is it peach? Either way, it’s oddly pleasant.

The entire atmosphere is one of calm. It’s a gentle sanctuary where a woman can ponder the important questions of the day, such as how to talk to their children about college or how best to meet the financial demands of everyday life while still managing to put a little aside for the future.

If you’re having a rough day, there’s always another woman or two in the restroom to offer support and encouragement. Sometimes they just and listen, sometimes they’ll offer hugs because, let’s face it, everybody deserves a hug now and then.

There are no hugs to be had in a men’s room.

Hostile and unforgiving, a men’s room might be the most desolate place in the world. Just walking by one is an affront to the senses.

It starts with the sight of the lonely stick man haphazardly glued to the door. Listless and plain, one can tell this slight figure is a creature without hope. He sits upon the door the way a skull and crossbones sits upon a container of cruel poison.

Wafting from behind that door are sounds that defy description. Even worse than the noises are the scents seeping from the various cracks within.

Inside, everything is wet. The toilet seats. The floor. The walls. The ceiling. It’s like Venice for cockroaches, except you’d never find a single roach, as even roaches have standards.

Where all that water came from is a complete mystery, as the only things less touched than the toilet handles are the faucets themselves.

A men’s room is a place of anxiety where metaphysical questions own the day, questions such as: how does one sit without actually sitting?

You feel dirty and gross simply by being close to it. It is to sanitation what Rob Ford is to politics.

How am I supposed to bring my son into a place like that?

I don’t read parenting books. When I have a concern, I prefer to consult people who have served on the front lines, so I asked my friend Rick for tips on how he trained his two little guys. The conversation didn’t inspire me with confidence.

“Ah man, it’s easy enough. First you have to let them spend a few nights without wearing their diaper to bed. Sure, there’ll be a few messes in the beginning but …”

“No bud (I call him bud), I don’t mean how did you potty train them. I mean how did you teach them to use a public bathroom?”

At this point his face grew stony, like an old soldier remembering a past battle.

“Oh. Yeah … well. He’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.” He had a faraway look in his eyes as he continued. “Just use lots of toilet paper.”
“Toilet paper?”

“Yeah. Lots. Like shrink wrap him in toilet paper. Until he can stand and pee on his own.”

Ah well, at least when he’s older, I can teach him how to pee on a tree.