Employees Must Pretend to Wash Hands

November 23rd, 2006

On our way back from Las Vegas we stopped in Barstow. Many places were closed because it’s Thanksgiving Day. We pulled into a gas station that looked like it was open and there were about 15 people milling about outside the restrooms (which were located on the side of the building). We decided that there had to be something better than that, so we drove to a Circle K down the road. There were only a few people at this gas station, so we stopped. I went inside to look for a pen light and a restroom. On the wall next to the restroom doors was a sign: “Closed for cleaning for 20 minutes. Sorry.” I saw a customer come out of the restroom while I was walking toward it, so I went inside.

It was immediately obvious that the sign outside the door had been there for a long time. I tried to hold my breath as I walked past the filthy sinks on the right and the two stalls in use on the left. As I rounded the turn I expected to find at least one urinal, but there was only a trash can where porcelain should have been mounted to the wall. I turned around as a man in a black leather jacket exited one of the stalls. I was not excited to be there.

Inside the stall I twisted the locking mechanism. As my fingers met the cold metal handle I had to remind myself that I would be able to wash my hands on my way out. There was used toilet paper on the floor surrounding the toilet. I’ve never been able to understand this. The toilet is right there, for the love of Pete! If anything it takes more effort to see the toilet and then make a decision not to throw the used toilet paper into it. Someone had also managed to miss slightly when they were sitting down and the remainder of this mistake was still on the back of the rim. The toilet seat was up, and I was glad that I didn’t have anything substantial I wanted to get rid of. When I was done, all I could think of was washing my hands and getting out of there.

At the sink I turned on the water and wet my hands as I looked around for the soap dispenser. It was on the wall between the two sinks. It was covered with dried streaks like someone had brushed their teeth and spit on the top of it and let the foamy toothpaste and spit run down the sides. I pulled the handle below the soap dispenser toward me. Nothing happened. I pulled again, and still nothing. So I started wiggling it back and forth more violently hoping to get a drop of the last bit of soap out. I resigned myself to pretending I was washing my hands, rubbing them together under the water for a while. I figured that was better than nothing. Then I looked for the paper towels. All I could find was a heated-air hand drier. I raised my foot above waist-level and lightly kicked the start button with the front of the sole of my shoe. It took two cycles to completely dry my hands. Then I waited for about 15 seconds for someone to come in the the restroom so I didn’t have to touch the door with my hand.

I decided to skip the hot dogs behind the cash register.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.