Things to consider when using public restrooms
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Things to consider when using public restrooms

We can’t single-handedly eradicate the lack of hygiene issues in public restrooms but we can dilute its strength

Post by on Tuesday, December 21, 2021

First slide

I’m sure that it’s an international issue but I’m going to specifically discuss public washrooms around the religious sanctities. Since tahara (cleanliness) is our half faith. But in my travels, it has become clear that people don’t understand how to behave in them, let alone taking care of tahara.

Yes it’s a fairly gross subject but this dormant “loo-phobia” you may have, could soon be defeated by nature hitting its panic button on you. You will start to see black spots floating in the air and one of them will even speak to you. Nature does not always wait for the most opportune time to make its appearance, so sometimes you are forced to visit the nearest facility. Unfortunately, the nearest restrooms are not always the most fun to call upon. And in case you can’t find one near, just follow your senses. Your nose will guide your way. Wherever it smells funny, there it is. But you won’t be laughing!

Clean after yourself

Now this is a no-brainer. Bathrooms should be clean. There should be no sign of fecal matter (yours or anyone else’s). But since it’s not always the case, you will walk into a cubicle and walk right out again, mentally and emotionally scarred. To even get to the seat, you have to wade through a lake of mystery liquid that, by the laws of logistical probability, very likely isn’t water. And when you arrive, you may find that the last person to use it couldn’t decide because it’s everywhere but in the bowl given, which isn’t rocket science. Feces are supposed to go in the water inside the toilet into the dark abyss. There is a button located directly above the toilet paper that is marked with the word… wait for it… “FLUSH”. Press that! And if the water isn’t available then you should’ve kept a water bottle with you. If it’s too late then cry us some river please and get it flushed. You shouldn’t expect free toilet paper, tissue or soap either. So carry them with you in small amounts.


Don’t steal toiletries

The person you saw smiling at you may have a reason behind it – No bathroom lock. Now I don’t know if people think if they are going to build their own toilet someday or open a bathroom business that’s why they came in with screws and took all the locks away or it’s their way of serial revenge, but that stuff is not for free and it’s not yours to take away. Let it be where it belongs. Or next time you will be in that state where one of your hand will be covering the space from where the lock is kidnapped and another will be holding the door (while someone will be trying to open it) and you won’t be the one smiling this time. What goes around comes around. Beware! Please don’t steal – be it locks, tissue paper, pipes etc. Anything. You don’t want to owe so many people, toiletries, on the Day of Judgment.


Don’t answer nature calls with a conversation

Now here’s a fairly interesting pet peeve: talking. Holding court in the area where people are relieving themselves is not good for unbiased judgments. They might not want to be your audience or testify for anything in your favor. And worse than observing a forum, is having someone engage them in that conversation. If there’s any sort of line, don’t use your phone in the bathroom. This is purely a matter of courtesy. Please focus on the task at hand. If it’s called a restroom, it doesn’t mean you rest in there. No text or a selfie can be more urgent than what others, with bladders the size of a grape, in line need to do – every second for whom means the difference between dignified relief and a desperate sprint out the door to a dark corner of the nearest hill/jungle, which you shouldn’t be grumpy about, when you step on it.


Keep your creativity confined to your own walls

I’m all for creativity and art but please limit your mediums to less-pukable ones. Nobody wants to see your art on the toilet floor or anywhere around it. I’m glad human being doesn’t possess superpowers with which they can climb the walls because you may have to deal with wall art as well and no I’m not talking about graffiti. But I’m coming to that Keep your graffiti confined to your own walls. This is a public area. Not yours to claim or paint. Spray painting the bathroom doors with things that may force parents to blindfold their kids when sending them in these toilets.


Extra-hygiene means extra-danger

In your effort to be super hygienic, don’t wash your hands so many times or do ablution so obsessively that you flood the whole place. Use the water reasonably. Another extreme is flushing the toilet with foot instead of a hand. People with hands – PLEASE! Acrobatics required to use your foot to flush, raise your risk of injury from slipping and falling, if you’re standing on one leg to flush the toilet. A flamingo can do it well, you can’t. It may end you up in way more mess than you thought you can get into, from touching the handle.


Patience is virtue, lying is not

You may usually find a long line in front of washrooms in places where there are little to no WCs available. Usually the queue would literally be hanging by the bathroom doors (if handles are available that is, otherwise – hanging by the holes). You may just want to stand in line calmly because the person in front of you deems every move from you as a line-breaking threat and they have thought of every clever way to stop you. It may include physical violence as well. What impatience does to human beings sometimes! There are times when calm is a word in dreams only. You will enter a stampede and the next thing you know, you’re in a washroom. Don’t claim ownership of the bathroom.


Your kids are your responsibility

Help the little ones before you help yourself. Their level of control is zero as compared to yours. But first commode in the first row is always the bad choice. Because that’s where the most uncontrolled splatters are. Which of course makes sense – they couldn’t make it any further. So walk a little (or perhaps run like a wind), holding your gag reflexes on standby as you poke through all the stalls anticipating post-culinary exploration disaster. But there will be a cleaner one, I can guarantee (almost 90%). Don’t lose hope. Just Un-witness the ones witnessed in line. Those with diaper clad babies – when you change the diaper of your baby, please throw it into the dumpster. Babies’ faces are cute but their feces are not. Don’t just roll it in the air and let fate decide its destiny. When you clean after yourself, please do that for the baby as well. Man or woman – whoever is taking it for the team.


Don’t abuse the toiletries

Sometimes the flush is not working because of too much toilet paper clogged inside (or too much dinner). You may see the dustbin beside the pot, empty! And you wonder why do people throw everything around while there is space for everything given? People who lead adult-lives, by the adulthood they should know how to use a chair with a hole in it. Something that they have been taught to use and have been using since 15 years or so. Definitely we are the disease! Don’t take your overloaded purse/bag inside the toilet. Sometimes the hooks aren’t very strong. Sometimes there are no hooks at all. Either way, draping it around your neck may be the last resort. Hand it over to someone close, outside the restroom. Don’t bring them in just so they could wait outside your stall, holding your bag. It will crowd the area unnecessarily.


Stay god-conscious

Jokes apart, this is something serious because one of the grave punishments includes someone not being conscious about cleanliness. We can’t single-handedly eradicate the lack of hygiene issues in public restrooms but we can dilute its strength. We will never not be fighting. We will go on, we will always work this issue until it doesn’t need to be worked on anymore. This is just a small step towards some basic awareness – but a small step is better than nothing, better than an intangible ideal.


Please make purification – your half faith

Our religion is so beautiful and complete. It teaches us how to live a life – from smallest details to the biggest of issues. The very basics of life. Basically, a good policy is:

Try to leave the vicinity in the condition you would wish to find it. Treat it like you usually treat your own toilet at home, especially when the guests are coming. Be the best version of yourself that ever existed. Be the super-you. You got it in you somewhere, so just be that. Be the change you want to see in the world. And if Muslims are going to present themselves this way, how are we ever going to preach? Actions speak louder than words. Even if nobody is watching you, Allah (SWT) is. Angels are taking notes. You will be rewarded. In shaa Allah.


May Allah (SWT) guide us all to the best behavior that wouldn’t hurt us or people around us.


(Author is Engineer by qualification, a Qur’an student and a Photographer)

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