So You’re Cleaning A Public Bathroom.

Laden with dubious-looking bottles of industrial cleaner, yellow rubber gloves, four rolls of bulk-purchased toilet paper and two packages of paper towel wedged underneath your armpits, you approach the doorway to hell with rapidly increasing trepidation. A little fear, too, especially if it’s been awhile since you set a non-slip shoe covered foot in there to assess the damage done by the general public.

You, my friend, have been selected for the dreaded task of cleaning a public bathroom.

There’s no one to volunteer as tribute for you, not when you’re located across from a bus station. Transients and drifters all unite as they warm their flattened buttcheeks on our toilets. And no one really likes cleaning up after them, especially at the end of the night, when the drifters seem to drift so much they miss the toilet entirely.

I’ve been scrubbing foreign piss off toilets for the last eight years of my life, given my position as a customer service flunky extraordinaire. When I first started as a teenager in a remote McDonald’s in Beaverton, I often found myself drawing the short straw at the end of the night — by which I mean my coworkers were also teenagers and would bitch at the prospect of wasting their youthful elbow grease on a task that was clearly beneath them. After many years of practice, I’ve got it down to a fine art and it takes me only five to ten minutes to successfully scrub off nefarious substances and battle horrific smells into submission.

This week, I’ve chosen to share that knowledge with you.

Gather ’round the fire pit while I palm my story stick and teach you how to survive your first encounter with the evils of cleaning public bathrooms.

1. Assess the damage.

Once inside, lock the door behind you, because nothing is more awkward than having someone follow you into the bathroom and proceed to ask if his hair makes him look like a werewolf. (Side note: I told him he looked fresh because I wanted to deter him from shaving in the sink. That shit is nasty. Don’t do it. And in retrospect, I think he was a werewolf.)

So, how bad does it look? Is there anything horrifying caked anywhere? Anything strange? Nine times out of ten the floor will be covered with random flakes of toilet paper, as if people just can’t grasp the concept of just pulling it off the roll like a normal person and instead decide to confetti the damn stuff everywhere. Same with paper towel. If that’s the worst of it, you’re ready to proceed.

2. Let it soak.

Don your gloves and spray the entire toilet down with whatever presumably dangerous industrial cleaner your workplace has decided to provide for you. Try not to breathe too deeply, and don’t be surprised if your eyes start watering from the intense smell of bleach. This is obviously healthy for you. Think of it like industrial cleaner for your lungs. I always spray down the toilet first because if you give it some time to soak in the sweet, sweet chemicals, it won’t be as hard to clean.

3. Mirror, mirror.

I don’t know how the mirror gets so spotty, unless the crackheads who use the bathroom as a cozy place to get high get so fucked up they’re tracing their own reflections with their greasy fingertips (probably while throwing TP confetti all over the place). At least the solution my workplace uses is strong enough to fix that shit pretty quickly. While I’m at it, I scrub the sink and wipe away any hair that might be left over from when Werewolf Man and his fellow strangefolk shaved in there.

4. What the hell is that doing there?

Over time, I’ve developed a theory that even the most upstanding of citizens turns into a raging Neanderthal behind the closed door of the public bathroom. So aside from their inherent inability to calmly roll themselves off an acceptable amount of toilet paper with which to wipe their precious arses, they also seem completely incapable of aiming for the garbage can when they’re done washing their hands. While I take it as a good sign that they’re actually attempting to perform basic hygiene, I don’t understand how paper towel can get all the way over by the door, under the sink, on the other side of the toilet… maybe the same people who enjoy reducing TP to cheap, absorbant confetti are the ones responsible for the display of paper towel. Gather it up in your gloved hands and stuff it into the garbage can.

5. Toilet time.

At this point, with my head shaking and my faith in humanity reduced to a smoldering pile of metaphorical dog shit burning on a freshly waxed floor, I attack the toilet. Oh, I could go into great detail about the nasty surprises I’ve encountered and the creative ways I’ve figured out how to remove certain kinds of gunk, but I’ll spare you. That’s a mental can of worms that does not need opening. If the magical chemical industrial wizards have done their magic, just give it a scrub and you’re good to go. Seriously, I need some of that shit for my house. If it’s a little tougher, try not to cry and just let it soak again for a bit.

6. The mysterious world of public garbage cans.

Maybe it’s because people forget that there are actual minimum-wage-paid humans who will eventually wander into the bathroom to change the garbage. Maybe the general public truly is just a group of drunken exhibitionists — I can’t really say. I can tell you that if you work in downtown Toronto, you are going to find some strange things stuffed into that bathroom garbage. While performing the embarrassing task of cleaning up after strangers, you can have a little fun just peeking through the sides of a clear garbage bag to see what wonders await you.

Things I have found include:
    1. Empty wine bottles. Drinking in the bathroom is so classy.
    2. Adult diapers. Incontinence isn’t funny, folks.
    3. Children’s toys. Behave or your parents will toss out your shit.
    4. Empty beer bottles. Seriously, who doesn’t like drinking on the toilet?
    5. Lingerie. I presume that person wasn’t alone in there.
    6. The empty package from a dildo. I guess they couldn’t wait until they got home for a little self-love.

Somebody who works at another location once found a dead woman. Someone else found a drunk passed out on the floor. I haven’t experienced either of these yet, but I admit I can’t top those stories.

You’ve done it. You’ve survived your first encounter with the fresh hell that is cleaning a public bathroom. Everything is sparkling clean, except your soul, which is now coated with a filth God himself could not remove. Wave your gloved hands in the air, son. You’ve done well.

Now do it again five times this week. Welcome to my life.

Featured image found HERE. How awesome is that thing though, seriously.

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Sorting out my life by writing about it.

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