Saturday, March 29, 2008

False Flushes

I do not embrace all of modern technology willingly. I think everyone who regularly reads this blog and remembers my disastrous run-in with Live Journal can attest to that. I understand the theory behind all of the conveniences cluttering up our lives, but I do not always approve.

Automatically flushing toilets, for instance.

I so don't appreciate those.

Having been in restrooms where people who were raised in a goat pen have left their business lurking in every toilet basin, I understand, and even approve, of the goal behind the invention of an automatic toilet flusher.

Not going to take two seconds to send your business on its merry way? We'll do it for you! No more walking into bathroom stalls and having the sight of someone's intestinal distress put you in danger of revisiting your lunch the hard way.


Like sushi or three additional episodes of Star Wars, there's a point where too much of a good thing becomes really, really bad.

I experienced this on my last foray into Nashville's airport. We were there for longer than originally anticipated, waiting for friends who missed their connecting flight. At some point, I decided to use the restroom.

I entered the stall, grabbed the handy toilet seat cover, and had it half positioned on the seat when the toilet flushed, snatching the toilet seat cover out of my hands and flinging it carelessly into the sewers.

I gave the little green light on the toilet's sensor the Beady Eye. I'm all for doing your job but nobody likes an over-achiever.

I reached for another toilet seat cover and the toilet flushed. Again.

At this point, I need to explain the facts of life to the men reading this blog. This was a women's restroom in a crowded airport. That means there was a line. I'm willing to bet that on average, women take a full two minutes longer than men to finish their business and exit the stall. This is because our clothing is more complicated and we wear more of it. We have snaps, buttons, zippers, panty hose, layers to be tucked in and layers to be left out, spandex to stuff ourselves into so that we look a full size smaller than we actually are...this kind of thing takes time. No unzip-uriniate-zip-and-buckle-your-belt-as-you-walk-out-the-door for us.

Because we take more time and the line is full of women who are either pregnant, hanging on to children who had to pee yesterday, in the throes of menopause and therefore sporting a full bladder and an irresistible desire to commit homicide, or experiencing an emergency of the feminine hygiene variety, the line becomes restless at the slightest provocation.

Every woman in that line understands that a toilet flushing should indicate a woman has taken care of business, re-girdled/strapped/snapped/zipped herself into a smaller size, and is now about to exit the stall.

A flushing toilet brings hope.

A double-flush brings confusion.

A triple flush gives the afore-mentioned menopausal women the excuse to commit the felony their little hearts desire.

I did not want to cause a triple flush.

I abandoned my plan to carefully position the toilet seat cover and went for broke - maneuvering my clothing and the seat cover in a series of flawlessly synchronized movements designed to avoid the little green eye and establish me on the porcelain throne, seat cover securely protecting my assets, with nary a flush in sight.

I was successful.

I sighed in relief and relaxed my posture.

The toilet flushed.

I could hear murmurs from the line. Who would be so callous as to flush thrice, thus raising the hopes of every woman in the line, and then stubbornly refuse to exit her stall? I wanted to call out, "Defective toilet here! Darn thing just keeps flushing even when there's nothing to flush!" but I thought better of it.

A. It's fairly uncouth to begin conversations with strangers in a public restroom, especially where one has to yell while one is seated on a toilet with one's pants around one's ankles and

B. In the faint chance that no one in the line had yet to determine which stall was repeatedly teasing them with false flushes, I did not wish to give away my location.

Instead, I began muttering death threats to the little green light. I can't recall my exact words but I believe a hammer, some duct tape, and somebody's mother were mentioned.

The toilet responded, of course, by flushing.

At this point, I was treated to an unwelcome realization. Flushing a toilet, especially one located in a public restroom where attendants are few and far between and thus potential blockages must be dealt with before they can become problems, requires suction.

A lot of suction.

Suction of this magnitude creates a draft. When one is sitting as I was sitting this creates a draft where a draft was never meant to be.

It was most uncomfortable.

I finished my business, grabbed for toilet paper and shook my head in resignation as the toilet flushed once again.

For those of you who've now lost count that would make flush number five. Five. Now I'm not a woman who is toying with the line, I'm a woman who ate bad seafood for lunch.

I don't know which is worse.

I used the toilet paper, stood up, began adjusting my clothing and waited for the inevitable flush.

It never came.

I glared at the little green light. It did not seem to notice. I waited a few more seconds thinking perhaps it was just tired from its earlier exertions.

No flush.

I waved my hand in front of the sensor. Nothing. I wiggled my hips. Nada. I turned around in circles.

No flush.

Now I was a woman who toyed with the line, muttered death threats to an inanimate object, and danced in front of a toilet sensor. I was one slippery step away from a straight jacket.

I stopped moving, pulled my dignity together, and pushed the "fail safe" black button to manually flush the toilet. Then, chin held high, I opened the stall door, sailed toward the sinks without a backward glance at the line, and heard, in my wake, that stupid toilet decide to flush.


  1. *snorts coffee and falls to the floor laughing hysterically*

    "seat cover securely protecting my assets"...*snickers*


  2. Oh Gods... your defective auto-flush toilet must be related to the one I encountered in the Las Vegas airport. I, thankfully, did not have it flush that many times, but I swear the thing had it in for me. They're evil.

  3. If anyone reads this and doesn't laugh out loud (and sympathize as well), I'd be very, very surprised! I'm glad you survived!

  4. Too funny! Oh my goodness, I swear this whole scene has happened to me before. And then, after all of that, there are the evil automatic sinks that don't turn on when your hands are full of soap. Hate those!

  5. Oh my gosh! That was the funniest thing I've read in a long LONG time! And you wrote it so beautifully.

    **Wipes tears from eyes**

    New follower here! Thanks for the great post!

  6. Giggling helplessly here. Oh my, nice to know others feel my pain. And OH! River! Only my favorite character.

  7. ROFL!
    My daughter was terrified of auto-flush toilets for years. YEARS. Every time we entered a public toilet, I would have to demonstrate to her that the toilet wouldn't flush while she was sitting on it. If it was an auto-flush, she would refuse to use it. She became hysterical if I insisted. Those 8-hour road trips to Grandma's house were...interesting.

  8. OhmygoodnessYES. I swear that at least one false flush (sometimes two or three or a million) happens every time I use an autoflush toilet, and then often it doesn't flush when it's actually supposed to. For a while I honestly wondered if I had bad toilet posture or something, so I'm relieved to know it happens to other people too. Hilarious post!

  9. I avoid all the "new" bathrooms on campus for this very reason. Oh and thanks for making me choke on my chicken nugget. :D

  10. At least it wasn't like the ones in Paris that spin the toilet seat while it flushes, cleaning the side you just used. Just think of what could have happened if it had shoved you off as well.


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