A Polemic

This post is dedicated to all janitorial workers who are fed up cleaning the same shit every day. For the last 3 years, I have cleaned the bathrooms at my place of employment. This occurs 3 to 4 times a week. Every single time I clean, I am disturbed by the lack of natural human decency I would expect all people to have. The floor of this bathroom has a urine puddle, roughly 6 inches in diameter, that is wet, day after day, 24/7. How is this possible, you may ask?

Here’s my theory. An individual enters the bathroom and sees the puddle. Rather than widen their stance to avoid the puddle and get closer to the urinal, the individual steps back a foot and proceeds to dribble, splash, and void themselves all over my floor. Some people choose to ignore using the urinal and instead choose the toilet. Once again, day after day, I discover massive amounts of dried urine caked to the toilet seat. In a bathroom that has a urinal a foot away.

Now, I honestly don’t care if people urinate in the toilet to avoid the urine puddle, that’s a completely legitimate concern. What bothers me is that people refuse to lift the lid of the toilet to urinate in it. It’s a process that takes literally two seconds at most. Bend and lift. Oh? What’s that? You don’t want to touch the gross toilet lid with your fingers? Use your foot. Or better yet, URINATE IN THE URINAL.

Pure. Insanity.

But wait! What’s that? There is a puddle of urine in front of the urinal? Then, widen your stance. A wide stance allows you to get closer to the urinal for the purposes of dripping, splashing, and voiding oneself directly within the confines of the urinal. What’s that? You’re getting urine blowback on your hands? It your own urine, deal with it. Wash your hands afterwards like you were taught to in kindergarten.

In fact, let me teach you how to urinate. Here are some tips on how to avoid urine blowback. First of all, don’t piss like a horse. Aim for the back wall and “fan” or “wave” your urine stream to displace the velocity. Alternatively, aim for just below the left or right corners so that your urine circulates, as opposed to ricochets along the back wall.

All of this is done in an effort to help me keep the bathroom clean for you. I will be touching your urine when I clean this bathroom. It’s guaranteed. The least you could do is make it easier for me. In fact, I love cleaning this bathroom because it can take up to a full hours work on a bad day. I get to enjoy some peace and quiet off of the retail floor. I honestly look forward to it.

But the repetitiveness and disgust that I sometimes experience in this bathroom has pushed me to my limit. I’ve cleaned shit off of the toilet bowl tank. I’ve wiped spit off of the top of the urinal. I’ve thrown out a load of trash that someone took a shit in. I’ve mopped blood off of the woman’s bathroom floor.

The stain in question, on a good day.

I once cleaned and scrubbed the urinal puddle with bleach, trisodium phosphate, and Brillo pads until the tile was almost white again. It took me 3 hours. I’ve never been more proud of any accomplishment in my entire life. My boss even complimented me on how good the bathroom looked afterwards. Men could finally stand at the urinal with a normal stance and pee in comfort, knowing that they were no longer standing in another human being’s urine.

But the next day, THE VERY NEXT DAY, the puddle was back. This led me to ask, how did this puddle even originate? It’s like a chicken and the egg scenario. Someone with malicious intent or just a horribly awkward stance must have allowed himself to urinate all over my floor. Do men really need to stand more than a foot away to urinate? Nobody is packing that large a dong.

This also leads me to note how disgusted I am by the way that men can piss at urinals. I’ve seen guys urinate from across the room and “arc” it into the toilet. I’ve seen men angle themselves towards the bathroom door so that, not only do they piss sideways, but they flash anyone unlucky enough to enter the restroom at that particular moment. I’ve had men urinate in the urinal directly next to me when multiple others were open. What is wrong with you?

When you enter this restroom, you may also note a lingering, acrid scent that seemingly emanates from the walls. That is the smell of dried urine both underneath of the urinal and behind the toilet, which I also make an effort to clean on a regular basis. I’m sorry to say that this is a losing battle. This is the one job I avoid most of all because it puts my head in close proximity to the urinal bowl and toilet lid, places where no one should ever have to be. I clean these because I enjoy the absence of smells in a bathroom. I clean these because I am a dedicated employee. I clean these because I want you to never have to do what I do.

Typical sights on a typical day.

I can’t wait to graduate college so that I can put as much effort into my career as I put into cleaning this bathroom. And never again will I look at a public restroom the same, having had this job. I feel as if this job should be forced upon everyone at least once, so that you may truly learn to appreciate the unsung heroes in our everyday lives.

Doing this job day after day and continuing to be met with a glistening pool of human waste is increasingly soul crushing. Sometimes I like to think of this room as a bathroom away from home. But the knowledge that other people can soil it so disrespectfully is disheartening. It’s making me lose my faith in humanity.

No one is asking me to do as good a job as I am doing in cleaning this bathroom. I do it because I believe that humanity is inherently good-natured. The famous writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.” This is a code I live by. If I don’t clean this bathroom, no one else will.

I’d like to create a new quote to keep in mind whenever you enter a public restroom. “Aim carefully, because a stranger is going to be cleaning this shit later.” So please, for my sake, and the sake of janitorial workers everywhere, treat any public restroom as if it were your own.

Watch your aim. Clean up your own messes. Lift the lid or wipe it off if you piss all over it. Make sure that that the paper towel ends up in the trashcan. And please, for the love of all that is good, urinate like a normal person, not a damn barbarian. It’s a bathroom, you are not marking your territory.

The next time you see a janitor, do me a favor and thank them. I guarantee that it will make their day, and yours.

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