My Dream of the Ultimate Dad-Friendly Men's Room
Given that I spend roughly 90% of my day responding to the phrase, "Daddy, I have to go potty!, I feel compelled to complain about the shoddy state of public men's rooms. I've griped before about the dearth of changing tables, as if women do all the diaper duty, but I have to say, I've seen a ton of progress on that front. More and more business owners seem to be tuning into the fact that dads are parents, too. To them I say two things: 1) thank you, and 2) I'm ready to push my luck.
You want to make men's rooms that are really dad-friendly? I have a few more humble requests:
1. Low sinks - My kids couldn't reach the sinks in most public bathrooms with a forklift and a pair of stilts. I'm not complaining about having to hoist them up. After all, I can use the cardio. But I do feel bad for my kids when they inevitably emerge from the bathroom with two daddy-sized wet hand prints on the sides of their shirts, because I'm also turning on the faucet for them and forcing their hands under the spray and the soap pump. And don't think those sinks for the disabled fit the bill. Those are made for wheelchairs to fit under, and thus they're even further out of my kids' reach. Lower a sink or two, please, especially if your business caters to kids. Want a cheaper solution? Just put a stepstool in the bathroom. Done!
2. For the love of God, seat protectors! - I'm not one to generalize much, but I feel comfortable saying that men have the absolute most disgusting bathroom etiquette of any gender. Have you seen a toilet seat in the typical men's room? It's a petri dish of bodily fluids, bodily solids, taco meat and the most recent 25 deadly diseases catalogued by the CDC. Seriously, you guys are animals. I've lived my whole life avoiding men's room toilet seats, but now that I'm a dad, I'm forced to put my 3-year-old daughter's bare tush on them every time she needs to tinkle. She doesn't deserve that. I can't expect men to change, so please, business owners, make seat protectors available, and keep them stocked. Better yet, keep a scrub brush and some heavy-duty Ajax next to every toilet.
3. Paper towels - Yeah, I know, automatic hand dryers are better for the environment. But the strategy of most hand dryers these days is to rip your wet skin off with a Mach 3 blast of hot air, in the hopes, I assume, that your body will regenerate dry skin in its place. And while a category 5 tornado shoots out of this metal contraption on the wall, a deafening blare fills the room, which is drowned out only by the sound of my kids' blood-curdling screams. When I was a kid, I feared boogeymen and monsters under the bed. I swear kids these days have nightmares about the XLerator. Please give us an alternative.
4. Privacy shields between urinals - Grown men know the #1 rule of men's rooms is to focus your gaze at all times on the point furthest from any other man's penis. Kids don't always follow this unwritten law. It's not so much that I'm worried about what my kids may glimpse as that I feel bad for the guys in the men's room who aren't dads. When they step into a men's room, they probably assume they're in a safe zone, then suddenly they hear my daughter behind them, innocently chirping, "Hello!" For their sake, let's give them a little privacy. Better yet, put a TV on the wall, like they have in family bathrooms. I guarantee my kids would prefer to watch "Dora the Explorer" than a stranger taking a whiz, if only that were an option.
5. Super-size stalls - The Americans With Disabilities Act may just be the best thing that ever happened to stay-home dads. When I'm in a public bathroom, I point my brood directly toward the handicapped stall -- at least, when there is one and it's available. Nothing's worse than cramming myself and two kids into a pipe-fitted shoebox, where we struggle to stay out of each other's splash zones while we take turns with the toilet. While you're at it, can you please put the door locks out of my kids' reach? It's a given that the instant it's my turn to use the facilities, they're going to try to escape the stall, and I'll be left screaming, "No! Don't open the door yet! Stop! Stop!"
6. Sound proof stalls - As long as I'm reaching for the stars, let me throw this one out there. The one thing more embarrassing than the sounds you usually hear coming out of a bathroom stall is the sound of me talking to my kids while they're going potty. I hear your snickers, other dads, while I issue rudimentary potty instructions like, "Make sure you're pointing your penis down so you don't get sprayed!" or "Don't let your dress hang into the toilet!" or "Hey, it's her pee, so she gets to flush it! That's the rule!"