I am afraid of spacious public restrooms.
The type most commonly found in Starbucks.
But not all of these generously proportioned facilities terrify me. I am fine with the ones that have been wisely equipped with good old-fashioned keys, locks, or latches. Solid pieces of no nonsense hardware, tested over time, and tasked with the singular job of securing the door to this preciously private domain. In these facilities I thoroughly enjoy the solitude, and meditative nature of natures break.
But humans can never be satisfied, we feel compelled to advance, innovate, improve upon a design. Well I’m here to tell you that this so called improvement to water closet security scares the **it out of me.
The door shuts. I turn, and stare long and hard at this new fangled advancement in restroom technology. My anxiety builds. The shiny silver handle smiles nonchalantly back at me while masquerading as BOTH handle and lock. A veritable jack-of-all-trades, yet master of none. The small circular silver button in the center of the handle waits for me to depress it. I sense heat coursing through my body, my cheeks flushed, I reach out, my movement unsure, my finger hesitant as I push the button in. It clicks softly. I look incredulously at it.
How locked are you? Completely locked, partially locked, or not locked at all? There is no way to tell.
If I de trouser, trek across the room, and perch myself upon the toilet I will be operating without a safety net. If the door is in fact unlocked, and a total stranger starts to enter, the distance is just too far, eliminating any chance to react quickly by slamming a hand or foot into the door in an attempt to prevent full exposure.
Fear grips me. I have to know. Locked or unlocked?
I grasp the handle and push it down, there’s another soft click. Did that innocuous click really mean that the door was indeed secured? It all seems a bit haphazard and casual in relationship to what is at stake.
I open the door, keep it a jar a few inches, and depress the central button for a second time.
The next person in line for the restroom will now experience the unusual sighting of a hand squeezing out of the gap, curling around the door, and clasping the outside door handle. Then wiggling it furiously to confirm it’s locked state. The hand will then slither quickly back into the restroom. There’s a soft click as the lock is released and the door shut.
Inside I push the button one last time, and trembling, retreat reluctantly to my far off porcelain throne.