I have lived in the United States for just over half of my life now, and those formative years in Texas swept away most of my Canadian traits. I haven’t seen much snow in years, I understand more about the US Congress than the Canadian Parliament, and I don’t follow hockey much. My Canadian “accent” comes out from time to time, though, when someone can’t tell that I’m asking for a “bag” or the occasional, cliché “eh.” More often, people are confused when I tell them that I need to go to the washroom. I’m not going to the bathroom, water closet, or restroom. I’m going to the washroom.
Washroom makes a lot more sense to me than anything else. I’m going to pee, not to take a bath. I’m going to brush my teeth, not rest. I am, however, going to wash my hands, as I hope all of you do as well.
The euphemisms for washrooms and washroom-related activities have always interested me. I remember coming back from recess in 4th grade, and my teacher telling us on the walk to the classroom, “If anyone needs to use the facilities, you may do that now.” “Facilities” seems far away from the true purpose of the room but is the natural progression. I once read how we develop ladders of words for culturally delicate topics. A word like “retarded” was once appropriate but has since developed a negative connotation. “Mentally-handicapped” might replace it, but at some point, that will become just as closely associated with the condition as “retarded,” only to be replaced by another word. This progression seems silly to me; the washroom is really just a shit stop, but frankly, I don’t see that being written on any signs in the near future.
I’m sitting on my throne, going through the motions. It’s quite a nice bathroom; the room is decently sized, the floor tiles aren’t laminate, and the wallpaper gives life to the room. The decorations remind me of a half bathroom you might find in a real house, though I know I’m in a single bathroom in Ricker Dining. The toilet seat is split, a characteristic of commercial, public toilets that I’ve never understood. And only upon thought do I realize how much the space is bothering me: there’s space in the bathroom to walk around.
I’m baffled by why the room is so big. Prove me wrong, but no one needs much space while on the can. I’m not going anywhere. Without a newspaper, all I can do is look at the wide-open spaces, an expanse that makes me feel small and uncomfortable. Maybe bathroom stalls aren’t ideal, but at least they lock me into a confined, private moment.
I’m waiting for my body to be ready to do its business, and frankly, I’m bored. Having taken in all the vistas from my vantage point, I’m getting restless, though I don’t want to move. This can’t be the only situation like this. How do people stay conscious while waiting to renew driver’s licenses? How do people occupy themselves in the shower?
I start singing “The Longest Time.” I get through the intro when I realize it’s not working out. When I’m in the shower, there’s enough static with water hitting my ears to gloss over the mistakes. Here in this large, single bathroom, I only hear my actual voice, bouncing off the tiles and sounding slightly too real. I guess I’ll just have to stick to the traditional sounds of the bathroom.