Blogoween Day 23 – True Terror Tuesday: A Haunting in St. Pete

blogoween ttt

I’ve always been leery of public restrooms. There are plenty of reasons to be: they’re a room full of doors with typically only one way in and out, and when inside you’re at your most vulnerable. But I’ve also always had a tiny bladder, so more often than I wish, I’ve found myself in dimly-lit, dirty, defecatoriums of doom.

A few years ago, I was out with Husband and some in-laws. I’m protecting their identities here, mostly because I’m sure they don’t want to publicly be associated with this brand of crazy, but they could corroborate at least part of this experience, provided they remember.

We had spent the day in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, and were returning to the car which was parked by the pier. The ride from St. Pete to Tampa was always long, stuck on a bridge, so I knew I had to pee before we got going, and as luck would have it, there were restrooms right there: Comfort Station One, to be exact. Dear Reader, when I tell you this was one of the strangest, most off-putting public bathrooms I’ve ever been in, I’m not exaggerating. They felt absolutely horrible inside.

The men’s and women’s were in separate buildings, octagonal shaped, and to enter the bathroom, you had to walk around the building and up a ramp, so that trapped feeling one might have in a bathroom with one way in and out was amplified by the hall of sorts that you could never see the end of since it spiraled around to the entrance door. Inside, the space was dark with tile walls and a concrete floor, so your movements echoed, but even though there are windows that are open and you can hear a bit of the ocean through them, most outside world sounds were shut off. Mirrors and sinks lined the left side of the room with a stall at their end, and stalls lined the right side completely.

I did a quick visual pat-down of the bathroom, and saw I was alone. This is always both better and worse than what I anticipate: I don’t want to be murdered, so an empty bathroom means no murderers, but if someone new comes in to murder me, there’s no one around to go get help. Ya dig? The farthest end of the bathroom was a bit more shadowed, so I opted for the second stall from the entrance, which is my typical go to anyway. I popped in and sat down quickly. I needed to pee pretty badly, but I was also anxious: what if the moment I started peeing someone tried to break down the stall door? This fear is exceptionally stupid, I have to admit, because if this did happen, I’d probably piss myself (and what better place than on the toilet?), but if I felt like I needed to run, I’d probably just stop peeing very suddenly, or if I was in genuine danger I would probably not care if I ran out half naked trailing urine. In fact, this might be tactically advantageous since my attacker could slip in the pee trail. Ultimately, I’m very unlikely to be murdered in a public toilet (though that’s probably the most likely place, it’s just unlikely overall), but I still had that momentary jolt of realization: I’m at my most vulnerable right now.

So now that we have my irrational fear covered, let’s get back to it: I was pissing. As I’m relieving myself, willing it to get the heck out so I too can get the heck out, I hear someone else come into the bathroom. Now, this bathroom, as I mentioned, already gave me that sense of dread that only very few places do, so when I heard footsteps outside the stall, my whole body seized for a second. Everything stopped up, and I just held my breath as they walked across the concrete just outside my stall. But then I realized, this is a public restroom after all, people come in and go out all the time, it was evening, it had been busy outside, this was completely normal. That and my family was waiting outside for me, so if I didn’t come out, they’d at least recover my corpse later.

So I hear this other person, and I see their shadow on the ground due to the windows in the room. They walk past my stall and enter the stall directly to my right. I was immediately annoyed–I don’t know why people do this, just leave a space between us! But then I remembered the dimness of the rest of the end of the bathroom, and I forgave them. But only a little. I heard them close the door and shuffle in the stall for a minute, then I’m finally finished, and I wrench my shorts on as fast as possible and throw myself out of the stall.

There was probably only 20 seconds between hearing my pee-partner close their stall and me exiting my own, 20 seconds that I got dressed, flushed the toilet, and left. Yes, I made a significant amount of noise, but it was incredibly fast, and I know for certain that no one else had entered or exited the bathroom in that time, but when I walked up to the sinks to wash my hands and peered into the mirror, I could see the reflection of all the stalls behind me, and they were all open. I was still alone.

My heart started racing. I was sure I’d heard and even seen someone (their shadow at least) come in and close the stall beside me. The world around me had most certainly been manipulated–light had been distorted by a figure passing by, the stalls had made a sound, they’d even rattled physically a tiny bit with the movement of the door. Everything that had just transpired screamed “there’s someone in here with you!” but I was definitively, in that moment, the only person inside that restroom.

I ran my hands under the water for a second, staring daggers at the reflection of the stall beside my own. There was no figure inside, the door didn’t even sway, but I had a terrible feeling, like I shouldn’t turn around and see it in actuality. Then I booked it out of the bathroom, and I think I actually ran down the ramp and away, and up to my family. I told them immediately, out of breath, “We have to go, that place is haunted.”

Now, I never expect people to believe me when I say this kind of thing, but this time, someone looked at me and asked me if I was joking. I shook my head and told them what happened. They pried a little harder, asking me if I was making it up or joking. Of course not, I told them, why would I do that?

Apparently, while I was in the bathroom, someone had come up to them and started talking. Since they were standing outside the Comfort Station, it looked like they were admiring it, so this person started telling them about the building. He told them that the man who’d built the octagonal bathrooms had first built an octagonal church in the area in the 30s, but had been stiffed on the payment for the church, so when he built the bathrooms, he modeled them after the church as a sort of middle finger to those that had done him wrong. Because of that, the bathrooms were cursed, or maybe haunted, or just had bad juju in general. In any case, it was best to just stay out of them. He walked away, and then I came out all flustered and upset because I’d peed next to a ghost.

I’ve since done research on Comfort Station One (meaning, I Googled it a couple times), and it turns out the legend isn’t 100% true (though it’s a pretty good one), but lots of people do report unease and ghostly sightings in that very bathroom, none of which I knew ahead of time. So that’s the story: a ghost hung out in the stall beside mine in a weird, octagonal bathroom in St. Pete once, and I managed to not pee myself or get murdered.

Things I Don’t Fucking Understand: Lysol Aerosol Spray

Most of us have probably used it at some point in our lives with varying degrees of satisfaction. Personally, I feel like a spritz or two of any scented Lysol on shoes or bedsheets is quite enough. It has come to my attention, however, this feeling isn’t universal.

Some people appear to love Lysol Aerosol Spray in Crisp Linen scent with an intensity I have never experienced for, frankly, anything. They love it so much they want not just to bathe in it themselves, but they want to overzealously coat the world in its miasma. They love it so much they want to build it its own shelf. Don’t worry, I’ll elaborate.

There are two things I thought I knew about life: 1) The older you get, the worse your olfactory sense gets, and 2) Women don’t shit at work.

Only one of those turned out to be true. Guess which.

I work in a regular building for a regular company that does regular things. I actually love my job, but the specifics aren’t important here. What is important is that we have a pretty high ratio of women to men. Like probably two or even three to one. But we have an equal number of restrooms, which isn’t ideal, but this is how buildings are built. I rarely have to wait for the restroom though, the issue actually revolves around the fact that these people seem to wait until they get to work to take their twice-daily dumps. Too few toilets swallowing too many turds. The plumbing is legit a mess.

Maybe this is normal behavior? I have a pretty good diet, and I can shit twice a day (Blog Idea: Facts About Me No One Needs To Know). I, however, do not know many people who can say they dependably take one whole shit every single day. The Standard American Diet is just not fibrous enough. But despite knowing otherwise (I see the lunches), you’d think I work at a vegan co-op based on the frequency with which the people in this building shit.

Shit-shaming aside, the people I work with have a second problem: they love Lysol. And these Lysol-lovers are menaces. Another fact you should know about me is that I drink a LOT of water, upwards of 80 to 100 ounces a day, so I take an hourly, but incredibly fast, trip to the bathroom. I am intimately acquainted with bathroom issues like the sink that constantly leaks or the toilet that’s attached to the men’s room that we all refer to as a “ride” to use. But the Lysol use takes the cake. Let me describe to you the Worst Case Scenario:

You’ve just entered the stall and seated yourself (because in this scenario you are a woman and you sit to pee–deal with it). Someone enters the stall beside you. Fine, there are only two anyway. But then you hear it. That familiar sound of can scraping ever so delicately against metal. Your bathroom partner hasn’t even undone their pants yet and they’re ALREADY PREPARED TO SPRAY. You panic. A quick exit is your only hope to survive the coming onslaught, but there’s no way you’ll make it. Your fate was sealed before your cheeks ever hit the waxy, blotting paper cover.

Your panic has stopped you up momentarily. Your urethra has dammed and so are you. You take a deep breath, your last for your bathroom duration, then break free. The force with which you evacuate your bladder would alert your stall-mate to call for medical attention if they could hear the fire-hose-like stream assailing the bowl. But they can’t hear it. Because they’re spraying. And spraying. AND SPRAYING. Dear god they’ve been spraying for a full 30 seconds. And you’re still peeing so hard you’re practically levitating, but it’s no use. Crisp Linen scent has already reached you, enveloping you in its disinfectant haze. Everything goes fuzzy and you nearly pass out trying to hold your breath against it as you fumble for the toilet paper, aim for your nethers, then realize it doesn’t matter if you get a UTI if you’re already dead from asphyxiation, and burst forth from the stall like a pig escaping slaughter.

People do this, I presume, because they are under the impression there’s all kinds of ass bacteria already on the seat that they’re magically spraying away before they sit, or they know they’re going to unleash liquid hell from their bowels and are pregaming the bowl for what is to come. Either way, the only thing it succeeds in doing is shortening everyone within 50 feet’s lifespan via aerosol-induced lung cancer. And there are NO EXCUSES for this behavior. Alas, my coworkers are some of the worst offenders.

Every damn stall in our building has its own can of Lysol which in and of itself is ridiculous, plus an extra two cans on the sink counters, and the frequency of use of the spray is criminal at best, but this–ALL OF THIS–is not even what pisses me off the most. It’s the Lysol Shelf™.

No, there isn’t an actual shelf built for Lysol–that, at this point, I would support. No. There is actually a tiny metal garbage can attached to the wall for the disposal of feminine hygiene products with a little lid that happens to be the perfect width on which to place a can of Lysol. If you’re not familiar with pads and tampons, they’re typically removed inside the stall and need to be disposed of inside the stall but cannot be flushed. Most women’s restrooms have lovely condescending signs reminding you of this fact, very frequently on little metal plaques with quotation marks around the wording as if it’s some sort of incredibly deep historical quote. Someday I’ll have enough forethought to print out labels so I can stick “ – Eleanor Roosevelt” to one of them.

Why the fuck is it in quotes?

So thankfully there are these little receptacles in the stalls of women’s restrooms for just this sort of thing, and they’re typically located right at toilet paper height, and, without a hitch, in my workplace they are used for storing the Lysol. No matter how many fucking times I remove the can to place it anywhere else in the stall, it always magically ends up right back in exactly the place where it doesn’t belong: holding down a lid that only needs to be lifted when the user has exactly no hands to remove the can because they’re holding onto A BLOODY FUCKING TAMPON. And no, that’s not fake-Brit speak. We are talking about actual blood. From the vagina.

There’s no way to non-passively-aggressively address this issue. The only response I can think of is to write a note and tape it to the lid that reads:

“This is not the place for Lysol, but if you insist on putting it back here, please know that we’re both touching the same can, but I’m doing so with bloody hands.”

The bane of my existence.

I could get more aggressive and remind them that just because some of their periods stopped with the end of the Bush era doesn’t mean the rest of us ceased menstruating as well, but truly I don’t know what age demographic is doing this. It could be inconsiderate Millennials, but we’re pretty obsessed with periods, so I doubt it.

The point is, I don’t understand why there are so many cans of Lysol in the bathroom at all, I don’t understand the need to saturate the very air so thickly that you’d kill a whole flock of canaries were they with you, and I don’t understand the obsession with Lysol Aerosol Spray in Crisp Linen scent’s own person shelf that is not a shelf at all.

I just don’t fucking understand.