How to Pee
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Contrast.
I’m not enjoying work this week.
I occasionally have to work with an Alpha Female with whom I’ve often clashed. I don’t like her. That’s okay, though, because she doesn’t like me either. We have our own mutual dis-admiration society. I still remember being excited about meeting her for the first time as my new boss, and her opening response to me was a 5minute verbal beating about how much she disapproved of my having a mind of my own instead of being the cookie-cutter yes-woman she’d expected. I still remember hearing embarrassed apologies a few minutes later from half my new co-workers, all before I remembered to pick my jaw up off the floor. Yeah, welcome aboard, Lorna. But that’s her personality and I think she always looks for the worst in the people around her, contrary to what she says. Or if she does look, she still expects the worst.
In having to deal with her again this week, I cheered myself by realizing that she really does look for the negative, to the point of making those assumptions without any basis in fact and that I should not take her sudden change-of-heart on a project personally. It was the memory of one particular incident that made her mindset clear to me.
She used to work on the same floor as I did, and she was in charge. As in, people were terrified of her. With good reason.
Women on my floor would go to a different floor or even a different building to avoid running into her in the restroom. If you were already in the restroom and she came in while you weren’t in a stall, you said hello and got the hell out of there, regardless of how bad you needed to “go.” If you were already in the restroom and she came in while you were in a stall, you sat quietly until your legs fell asleep rather than risk having to face her.
One day, I had the great misfortune of walking in the restroom before I realized she was behind me. I passed the toilet I didn’t like and went to the one nearest the wall. I quickly closed the stall door and resolved to stay in there until dark, if necessary. She took the stall next to mine.
Immediately, before she’d had time to sit down, I heard her mumbling under her breath, and then more loudly, specifically to me. “Someone peed all over the back of the toilet seat! What is wrong with these people? Don’t they know how to pee right?”
Just that quickly, I knew what had happened. I knew because I saw it every time I went to the restroom—the reason I rarely went into the neighboring stall. The toilet next door had a faulty handle, and whenever you flushed, the contents of the bowl flushed and fresh water refilled the bowl, with the incoming pipe near the handle spurting a few droplets of fresh, clear water onto the back of the seat. Not something you’d want to sit on or clean up, but definitely not urine.
“How can people in this building be that stupid?” she asked, referring to women like me who worked for her. A few seconds later, she concluded, “You’d have to do that deliberately to pee on the back of the toilet seat.” She went on, and on, and on.
Afraid we’d all be sent to training classes to learn the correct way to pee or else be accused of vandalism, I finally interrupted her rant to tell her that the handle leaked. She quieted, then simply responded that well, then, it should be fixed.
There were many possible reasons for droplets of water to be on the back of the toilet seat. Someone might have dripped while washing their hands in the sink near the toilet. Sometimes an AC pipe in the ceiling leaked a drop or two. Someone watering the plants in the bathroom might have spilled something from the watering can. The janitors might have dripped while mopping or scrubbing. I’d seen the water spurt out of the handle, so I already knew the reason for that particular pattern of droplets in that particular odd location. It never crossed my mind that someone was either accidentally or intentionally urinating on the back of the toilet.
But for someone having a day when nothing was right, there was only one possible answer.