The problem with public restrooms

I know what you’re thinking after reading that title. The sentence shouldn’t say, “problem”, it should say “problems” because there are clearly many things wrong with public restrooms. At least that’s what you’re thinking if you’re a woman. If you’re a man, it may have never occurred to you that there are any issues at all—and that is the root of the problems with public restrooms. I’m not talking about dirt, empty toilet paper roll dispensers, and such. I’m talking about the fact that men clearly designed these places. And anyone who thinks urinals are an acceptable way to relieve oneself is not going to design a bathroom that women want to use.

Between a wedding and a family reunion, I’ve been traveling around a lot in the last two weeks, so this is an open letter of protest to whoever is building women’s restrooms.

Dir Sir,

1. Restrooms are not a place where men and women are equal. Due to that gift of nature that makes women want to rip off your head once a month, women need to use the restrooms more frequently than men. Build bigger bathrooms for women. Because having to wait in long lines makes us want to rip your head off even more.

2. Hand sensors at the sink are more trouble than they’re worth. In theory sensors are a good idea. They would be a great idea if every restroom had them, but since some don’t, I find myself automatically holding my hands out underneath the faucet and waiting there like some desert traveler begging for water. And then I feel foolish when the person next to me walks up and flips the faucet handle on. A public restroom is not the place where I want to explain to strangers that I’m neither crazy nor incompetent when it comes to plumbing–I’ve just been conditioned, like one of Pavlov’s famous pets, to stand there with my hands outstretched waiting for something to happen.

Also the faucet sensor is an especially annoying feature if you happen to knock your camera into the sink with your purse while you are wrestling paper towels out of a recalcitrant paper towel dispenser. This is not a time when you want the faucet to automatically turn on.

3. Automatic flush sensors at the toilet. This is a feature that men probably think women like. This is because men have never used these sorts of toilets in conjunction with the tissue paper toilet seat covers. Men, let me clue you into what happens when you use the two things together.

Step one: pull out the tissue paper cover from the wall receptacle.

Step two: tear out the middle so it will fit on the toilet.

Step three: carefully place the now ready tissue paper over the toilet seat to protect yourself from germs, grime, and the invisible toilet monsters that lurk in public restrooms.

Step four: start to do the necessary undressing.

Step five: watch as the toilet sensor decides the tissue paper constitutes something that needs to be flushed and whisks it and the water down the bowl.

Step six: repeat

        4. Hand sensors on the paper towel dispenser. Are you noticing a theme? You should. I frequently look like I’m practicing a jazz hands routine while I wave pointlessly at the paper towel dispenser. Either I am actually a vampire and have no body heat, or those sensors are temperamental things that hang onto their hoard of paper towels with Scrooge-like diligence.

Well, I’m back home now. Back to work and deadlines and my real life, but thankfully also back to my non-sensored bathroom.


  1. Dena
    July 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I share your public bathroom woes. It is so frustrating when you are holding a squirming toddler in your arms, waving their soapy hands frantically under the automatic faucet, trying to get it to turn on. And then again with the paper towel dispenser.

  2. Mama Rachel
    July 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Oh, yes. And the automatically flushing toilets that decide to flush while one is still sitting on said toilet.

    (If I wanted to use a bidet, folks, I’d go to France.)


  3. Britney Gulbrandsen
    July 1, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Hahaha love this post! So much, in fact, that I had to share it with the hubs. Thanks for providing me with some Sunday evening entertainment.

    And Mama Rachel–so true! Ick!

  4. Sushiboofay
    July 1, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Bwahaha! You forgot to mention stalls so tiny that when you do finally sit down your leg is rammed up under the feminine disposal box! 😮

  5. Mary
    July 1, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    I have always wanted to post something like this somewhere, so thank you for doing it for me. I would also add (to the Sir): Kindly install the extra large enclosed toilet paper holders higher up so that our legs don’t squish against them when we sit down. Please and thankyouverymuch. LOL.

  6. CJ Hill
    July 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Janette Rallison
    July 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Ahh, you guys make me laugh. I’m glad I’m not alone in my frustration with public restrooms.

    Dena, I still remember the days when I would take a toddler into the stall with me and said child would crawl underneath the door and escape. Glad those days are over.

    Mama Rachel, I have had that happen more than once. So lovely.

    Britney, glad you shared with your husband. They need to know these sorts of things.

    Sushiboofay, yeah love those.

    Mary, the nice thing about this blog is that I can rant about all sorts of things. It’s built in satisfaction.

  8. Janette Rallison
    July 1, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Washroom UK
    July 2, 2012 at 2:26 am


    This story rings true with women all over the world, my other half has the same problems (mostly the queues since in england very little of the washrooms have automatic fixtures yet) and every time she visits a restroom i have to spend 15 minutes listening to her moan – so for the sanity of all MEN…
    Mr restroom designers please head these comments!


  10. Tiana Smith
    July 2, 2012 at 7:49 am

    My theory is that most men don’t mind the automatic paper/soap/flushers/etc. because they don’t actually USE any of these things. I mean, if they don’t wash their hands, how are they to know how annoying those things are??

  11. Anonymous
    July 2, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Aahaha! I think Tiana hit the nail on the head! Though, my husband routinely complains about the disgusting state of mens restrooms when traveling (especially if he has to take in a kid).

  12. Natalie
    July 2, 2012 at 11:30 am

    LOL. I also just recently blogged about the nightmares that are public washrooms. Check it out…I tossed in a few personal nightmares in it to:-)

  13. A. Johnson
    July 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    A man here, I alwalys knew that toilets are annoying for both sexes but didnt know you women felt this strongly. Seems like female toilets do need to be re designed. My motto is let women be women and men be men.

    Well, talking about sensor pet peeves(no pun intended), its most annoying for me when the sensor dryer donesn’t work and I have to give it two wet hand slaps to get it blowing again. After that though I just forget about it.

    I understand what the toilet designers are trying to do, but we’re in the days of lightsabers and wrap speed yet!

  14. Janette Rallison
    July 2, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Washroom UK, I’m sorry to hear that this is a worldwide problem. (Well, probably not really a worldwide problem since some countries squat. One hopes they don’t have to stand in lines to do that.)

    Tiana, probably true. Men seem to be born with out that Oooh-gross gene.

    Natalie, we are clearly soul mates when it comes to bathrooms–although I have never had to leopard crawl across a bathroom floor. (Knock on wood)

    A. Johnson, love your motto. And I’m with you when it comes to hand dryers. I see those old fashioned blow models and just wipe my hands dry on my jeans.

  15. Merry
    July 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I disagree with the sensors on the sinks and paper towel dispensers. I like those features. But I HATE toilets that automatically flush. I frequently experience the flush while I’m still on the toilet, and it bugs the heck out of me.

  16. Janette Rallison
    July 5, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Yeah, it’s sort of like your own personal toilet demons.

  17. colmert
    July 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Thanks for writing about some of the problems some women experience when using public restrooms.

    As a female shy bladder sufferer, I wish to point out that many of us simply avoid altogether using bathrooms in which others are present because we cannot urinate in this situation.

    So when we face long lines in often crowded bathrooms because there aren’t enough stalls, we either run away or have to self-catheterize.

    The shy bladder condition, also known as paruresis, is considered a type of social anxiety. For more information, please visit the website of Bathrooms Make Me Nervous.

  18. Melissa
    July 6, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    I feel sorry for the people who’s job it is to have to maintain these bathrooms. They deserve to be paid more.

    My most recent public bathroom woe were the sinks where you have to push the knob on top of the faucet, and then the water will run until the knob slides back into place. I HATE THIS THING. It only gave me 2 seconds of water each time I pressed it, no lie! And I was pressing it as far back as it could possibly go, but it kept sliding back into place way too fast. My friend had to hold it down for me in order to properly wash my hands.

    Ugh. I’ve pretty much sworn off public bathrooms. I would have to be in a state of utter pain from twisting my body to hold it in order to use one.

    Oh, and by the way, thought you’d like to know, I convinced three different people to each buy one of your books recently 😀

  19. ikinci el eşya
    July 7, 2012 at 7:32 am

    always been a problem already in the public toilets. best to keep up to the house telling :))

  20. PersonofInterest
    July 17, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Ok. I read this well over a week ago, but it really came back to me last weekend. The auto-flush toilet where I was at would barely let your ass leave the seat before it flushed. How do you wipe? I was really starting to think I was doing it wrong.

  21. Prettylittlepassion Blog
    August 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Haha this was very entertaining . I agree completely!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stay In The Loop

Subscribe and receive a free Ebook!

Want to know about new releases or ebook sales?
Sign up for Jannette's newsletter and receive a free copy of Fame, Glory, and Other Things On My To Do List.

Paperback and ebook versions of "Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To-Do List" by Janette Rallison posed on a shelf.