One in the Can


Those who have experienced the undeniable need to sacrifice your attachment to cleanliness and a small piece of your sanity in a wretched  public restroom can appreciate the contrasting experience of heeding that same call in the comfort of your very own bathroom.

At home, in your private sanctuary, you have the clean seat, the tidy bowl, the stack of outdated yet unread magazines and the perfect combination of wipes and extra quilted paper for your delicate behind. It is the nirvana of potty breaks.

That is, of course, unless you live in a house filled with a motley assortment of teens, tweens and toddlers. In that case, the home is filled with bathrooms that are only one small step above public facilities. We have the random sprinkling of drips and, more often than not, a clogged toilet.

Could it be the carb-heavy, fiber-free diet of the average American youth, or perhaps the California drought-friendly lo- flow toilets that contribute to the maddeningly frequent clogs? I have no idea what the cause is, but I’m quite familiar with the frequency.

Approaching any toilet in the house is a paramount to visiting that old aunt that nobody likes and wondering if this is the visit that will find her face down in the kitchen with her four cats nibbling away at her body. You approach cautiously, taking a tentative sniff at the air, deciding if it’s worth a peek to confirm your worst fears, or if it would be better to just assume the worst and call in the cleanup crew now without further confirmation. I mean, really, who needs to see that. Bad kitties!

To prepare for this inevitability every bathroom in the house comes equipped with a fully functional plunger. Each child knows what a plunger looks like and has at least a passing knowledge of how the thing works. And yet, none of them will make the effort to use one unless forced to at the end of a disapproving parental finger wangling in the direction of the offending clog.

Not only will they not take action to clear the mess, but they will religiously swear that they were nowhere near the crime scene at the time of the incident. A unanimous chorus of “It wasn’t me” can be heard ringing through the halls. Alibis with nothing-to-do-with-anything start to percolate: “I haven’t been upstairs all day because I twisted my ankle during testing in PE.” Accusations redirect blame to other suspects: “I suspect Colonel Mustard, in the bathroom with the lead brick.”

This is a crime scene no one wants to investigate. There will be no CBS series called “CSI: Downstairs Bathroom.” In the end, nobody cares. The residing adults play a quick game of rock, paper, plunger, and whoever loses deals with the problem while somewhere in the house an unknown child giggles knowingly to themselves.

I don’t want to think about it. I lose enough sanity dealing with everyone else’s mess, I don’t need to face that in my moment of need too. This is why no child is allowed in the master bathroom. I don’t care if every other bathroom is occupied (or clogged) and you just chugged a 32oz Gatorade on a dare. You can wait… or discover the joys of operating a plunger.

Whatever the supposed emergency at least one room in the house needs to be reserved for our little parental nirvana. Our blessed brood may not care about trivial things like aiming or flushing, but those indiscretions will not be tolerated when I’ve intentionally avoided the public stalls in Costco only to race home with legs crossed.

I need to know that a safe haven awaits me.

Robert Hoffman is a father of two, in a family of eight. He is a code monkey by day and a writer and comic stripper by night.

Illustration: Robert Hoffman

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