According to my personal psychologist, priest, and physician Google, I am not a germophobe. I know this without a doubt because Google has informed me that to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder it has to be intense, it has to last a long time, and it has to severely interfere with daily living. I don’t have vats of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer strategically placed throughout my apartment. I don’t wear a SARS mask to the grocery store, though I received one for Christmas. I only take Airborne once per day before school and each time I enter an airport.
I do wash my hands after every bathroom visit because I learned in kindergarten that this is basic hygiene. Washing my hands seven times during the process of handling raw chicken is a different phobia called Alektorophobia. I will cop to that, but I am definitely not suffering from a fear of germs, otherwise known as Mysophobia. Aside from my admitted phobia in relation to fleshy naked fowl I also endure an almost crippling case of Coprophobia, a fear of toilets. It’s the closest term Google can find to describe my crushing anxiety over self-flushing toilets. This does not mean that I have an anxiety disorder, however, as my most recent trek to a public restroom will clearly demonstrate. While this experience was indeed intense it only took a half an hour of my day, therefore it doesn’t qualify for duration, nor did it severely affect my daily living as I was only at school for two hours that day.
Yesterday, before class, I walked into a restroom at Cleveland State University. CSU harbors some of the most terrifying commodes I have ever encountered. These toilets flush of their own accord, with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. As I approached the furthest stall, protected on one side by a brick wall rather than a tenant, I felt the barest glimmer of uncertainty begin to rise up. I needed to “go” before class began. I imagined that if I didn’t “go” I wasn’t going to be able to focus on a discussion of the Self in 11th century literature. Rather I would most certainly be focused on the five cups of coffee I had consumed in the past hour.
I straightened my shoulders, lifted my head, and pushed open the swinging door of my preferred stall. The toilet flushed. I flinched. As I hadn’t yet stepped into the stall itself I quickly calmed myself with my usual internal dialogue. You were too far away to be sprayed. You’re fine. Whatever matter of feces that were hanging out in the bowl are gone.
After a bit of mental assurance I tiptoed slowly toward the toilet keeping as close to the wall as possible and away from the menacing automatic toilet flush sensor. Regardless of my agile reflexes and deft avoidance the sensor was somehow alerted to my presence as if a god. The toilet flushed. I just felt a droplet. On my hand! There is piss on my hand! Someone else’s urine is on the back of my hand! Whose piss is this? Does this person have hepatitis? Don’t go there. Stop. Breathe. It’s a drop. The sink is like two feet away.
My super slow motion tactics weren’t working. I turned around quickly, a veritable Bruce Lee himself, thinking that I would be finished and washing my hands before the toilet realized what hit it. I continued to hug the right wall, my cheek pressed against the cool orange bricks, and hastily undid my pants. The toilet flushed. The flushing sounded like an airplane engine going through an automatic car wash and the rushing water noises were moving the coffee more quickly through my bladder. Good God! I have just been bathed in diluted pee! Calm! You’re calm. Remember you can’t touch your clothes for the rest of the day.
I hadn’t even gotten my pants down and I was exhausted, traumatized, and wishing I were safely ensconced in my front row seat listening to the pleasant lilt of my British born professor as she discussed monks, friars, and castration. I steeled myself against the possibility of drowning on the fourth floor of the Main Classroom as the toilet continued to flush and eventually flooded. I pulled down my pants and safely assumed the hover position. I couldn’t pee. My thighs started to shake. I really need to start doing squats. Please don’t let the toilet flush now. I need to go to the gym, period! What time would I have to get up to go to the gym before class? Please don’t flush. Jude says 90% of people are doing squats wrong and they don’t realize it. I don’t want to screw up my back. I shouldn’t start doing squats until I fly to Austin, meet with Jude in his gym, and he shows me the proper way. Please don’t flush. I can’t hold this position much longer. I’m going to land on the toilet seat. Pee damn it!
My legs were on fire, I wavered over the toilet. The toilet flushed. I have just wasted twenty gallons of water. I’m going to hell. In hell I’m going to be in charge of waste management. I had always thought I’d be in charge of filing. I hate filing! Stop!!! You have got to pee. What was that little ditty Auntie Kaye used to sing, ‘I’ve got to pee, I’ve got to be me.’ That’s not helping. Stop! Imagine the sink is running. Think about flowing water.
Mid-pee. The toilet flushed. My ass was drenched. If it were summer and this had been a never-before-used-toilet that had been cleansed and sanitized thoroughly it might have felt good. Refreshing even. As it was I took small gulps of air, my heart thumping in my chest, my legs like wiggly pudding. Do I wipe off the water or will that just smear it around? Do they make anti-bacterial toilet paper? I’m going to be late to class.
I was at a complete loss at that point. I knew that I needed to finish my business. I also knew that cutting off mid-pee was bad for your health. (No, I do not have leanings toward hypochondria.) I realized that regardless of the drying drops of germs on my person I had to close the deal.
I stood, shaky and taxed. I pulled my pants up. The toilet flushed. Relief flooded over me. My pants are already infected, that’s fine. I walked to the sink to bathe as much as I could wondering if the soap was anti-bacterial. The toilet flushed.
As I arrived and settled into the safety of my desk a classmate asked, “Melanie, are you okay, you don’t look very good?” “Yes,” I replied, “I’m fine, I’m just a bit flushed.”