Unless You’re The Fonz, Please Don’t Use A Toilet As Your Office

Once you reach a certain age, I think it’s around forty, you start to hear people talk a lot about “the old days.” Things were so much better then, according to the people who talk about it. They say things like, we didn’t come in until the streetlights came on and we had discipline and no one gave me a trophy even when I won that Presidential thing in gym class! And so on.

These people are a tiny bit obnoxious, if you want to know my opinion. I mean, times change. The world changes. Progress is made and some things get better at the same time as other things get stupider. When today’s children reach this ‘certain age,’ they’ll be saying things like, “I’m so glad there was no teleporting when was in high school,” or whatever. This is just the way it goes and on the whole, I’m sticking with the opinion that progress is inevitable and also generally good-ish.

However. There is actually one thing I really do miss about the glorious era that was the 1970’s and 80’s, which is that we did not talk on telephones while we were using a toilet. Ever. Granted, this is because the phone cord typically did not reach the bathroom, especially in office buildings, so we couldn’t. Possibly if we had the option, we too would have forgot our manners and went crazy with the freedom. Possibly. But I doubt it.

Not to brag, but I use a lot of public restrooms. This isn’t some kind of weird fetish thing. I’m pretty sure that anyone who has a job outside the home uses public restrooms on the regular. This makes it pretty difficult to avoid occasionally peeing while someone else is shouting into their cell phone like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. By the way, I really disliked that movie. I think the drug-fueled nature of the whole thing just brought me down. In the end I didn’t just want Leo DiCaprio in prison, I actually wanted to end his life with my own hands in some very gruesome manner. And I don’t mean the character he played, I mean Leo DiCaprio himself, for having accepted such a sleazy, sickening role and then making matters worse by playing it so well.

Even so, I can honestly tell you that The Wolf of Wall Street did not chill me to the core quite as thoroughly as the sound of a cell phone conversation in a public shitter. “Shitter” being what my dad would call it, not me. Seriously. I think the worst thing a person can do in life, worse even than feeling apathetic toward our current government situation or not limiting a child’s screen time, is to engage in a telephone conversation while simultaneously engaging in emptying one’s bladder (or oh God, producing a bowel movement) in a public restroom.

Just yesterday I had a quick stop in the lobby restroom of the William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. While there, I got to overhear a woman discussing the promotion she recently did not get. She talked and peed as if that’s just what you’re supposed to do. It wasn’t even one of those quiet pees where the stream hits the side of the bowl very delicately and then goes gently off into that good night, or whatever the quote is. This was full-volume, waterfall pee. Then she flushed. There is no quiet flushing no matter what kind of high-tech plumbing you’ve invested in. The woman was confused about why she hadn’t gotten the promotion. I was not.

None of this is to say that all of this is A-OK if done in the privacy of one’s home; it’s really sort of unacceptable no matter where you are. The only reason I can give you a pass when you’re at home is because at least then, I don’t have to witness it. Assuming I am not the unlucky person on the other end of the line.

To sum up: I think the rules are pretty simple in life. Be kind. Don’t text and drive. Don’t talk and excrete waste from your body. I wish we could make this a law but I’m pretty sure it would never fly. The best I can do is what I’m doing here: asking the 7 or 8 people who read what I write to set an example. Be silent types in the women’s or men’s rooms. We’ll be starting small, but progress is progress and eventually I bet we can change the world.

Because, as I mentioned, change is good. Ish.


Mental Health Days, Or, Perfect Attendance Is For Losers

A month or so ago, maybe longer, I was taking an item of clothing from my closet when the hanger broke. Like in half. I do not recall becoming annoyed or frustrated. I also do not recall throwing the hanger to the floor in disgust but it’s possible I did, because it has been lying there ever since. On the floor in front of the closet. For at least a month and maybe three.

Six million times I could have picked that hanger up and thrown it away; six million times I looked at it and thought, whatever. Maybe later. I have no explanation for my neglect. It’s just one of those weird things that we all do sometimes. My husband says that no, we do not all do those weird things but I don’t know if I believe that. It can’t be just me who feels that a broken hanger should be punished by being forced to sit there on the floor and think about what it has done.

Just a few days ago, I was getting dressed for work and I saw that hanger, again, and left it there, again. I have got to pick up that goddamned hanger already, I thought, and then, right after: I’d better take a vacation day.

The questions and curious looks came when I tried to explain this to some of my colleagues at the office. “You need a vacation day to pick up a hanger?” They asked.

“Yes,” I told them. “It’s scheduled for Friday. I have cleared my calendar.”

One person laughed, as if I were joking. Another pressed me for details. “You need a whole day to throw away a broken hanger?” He asked.

“No,” I said. “Obviously not. But I’m taking it anyway.”

I found this while searching for images related to the word “clothes,” and now I have lost my will to live.

As I write this it is Friday, 6:53 a.m. Vacation day is in progress. I cannot tell you how happy I am to be here; to have a whole day planned around nothing more than picking up and disposing of a single piece of garbage. I could be staring at my work laptop right now or worse, headed into the office in very sad business casual attire. Instead, I am contemplating that hanger and all the other things I might dispose of today, including half the stuff I’ve ever received from Ipsy, 17 years’ worth of Target receipts plus  450,000 emails from Bed Bath & Beyond.

I realize that a “mental health day” typically means calling in sick to work and pretending to be physically ill, and then taking the free time to give one’s mind a break. To get it recalibrated, so to speak. I have changed the rules a bit by actually admitting to my coworkers that I might be mentally unstable. I think this is fine, though, because it’s a good way to keep them guessing. Sure, we could choose her for the next round of layoffs, they might think. But what kind of person is she, really?

The moral of the story would seem to be that obviously, you should skip work as often as possible. But that is only one moral. The other is that broken hangers need not make you cry, or cause you to yell at your kids, or to wonder why all the bad things have to happen to you. The real moral here is that sometimes, broken hangers are exactly what you need.


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