Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Exploring the Restrooms of the World

#2 was potty trained twice.  She first took an interest at 19 months of age, and I was so happy to give her a packet of "big-girl panties" for her second birthday.  Right about that time, though, she had a series of UTIs that basically undid her new skill and forced us to revisit toilet training for the next year or so until she had it down.

  Notes from my stream of consciousness:
  1. This is the first time I've regretted referring to my children as numbers on my blog.  I mean really, does #2 want to be called #2 in a post about restrooms?
  2. Do I revert to 13-yr-old-boy humor too often on this blog?  I wonder if I'm the only one to post about #2 in the restroom and pickled toilets.  Huh.
Back to 2002.  When #2 realized the power of yelling from the backseat of the van for a toilet "NOW!", she also realized her opportunity to explore the restrooms of the world.  No matter where we were, who we were with, or what we were doing, if she got bored she could easily get our attention, along with a change of scenery, by holding herself and doing a little jig for the potty.  I can only imagine how fun it must be for a two-year-old to suddenly be in charge of the situation as the adults drop what they're doing and scramble to whisk her away to a previously unexplored restroom.

At this point, I will admit to having a favorite bathroom in my own childhood: the master bath at my grandparents' house in Ogden was huge!  It was so big that it opened with a mirrored, sliding door instead of a hinged one.  There weren't many homes in the '80s that had his-and-her sinks, and certainly none that also had a vintage, standing hair dryer like the one pictured here.  (Imagine it in a pale, '60s green.)  The furry toilet-lid cover matched the room's thick-shag carpeting, which felt absolutely luxurious between my toes.  The few times that I soaked in the pink plastic tub filled with bubbles were absolutely magical!

Well, with my toddler and her pea-sized bladder, we got to see how all our friends and relatives decorated their bathrooms.  We visited restrooms in all (both--we were poor) of the stores we frequented.  When the Wal-Mart restroom bored #2, she discovered the potty dance was equally effective with grandparents at restaurants and the occasional movie theater.  On a trip to Yellowstone with Kent's extended family, the three-year-old made sure that we saw just about every toilet in the park. Perhaps those geysers were triggering her response.  However, I began to suspect that she was wielding her power a little more freely than her bladder demanded.  Still, I was never willing to test that theory, and since she was generally able to produce at least a trickle of a tinkle wherever she "went" (ha ha, potty puns!), we continued our jogs to the restrooms of the world and began a photo portfolio of her toilet trips.  (The restroom pictured here was quite quaint.)

That is, until one day on a drive to California.  

Shortly after a break at a nice rest stop with flushing toilets, #2 grew bored of the prolonged drive and decided she would like to stretch her legs again.  Her inconvenient, desperate plea to go potty instantly sent adrenaline into her parents' bloodstreams.  We knew another rest stop was coming up, and so we helped her count slowly and repeatedly to 20 to take her mind off the urge as we raced down the freeway.  Arriving at the tiny, roadside stop, I unstrapped her car-seat harness in record time, hooked my hands under her armpits, and ran for the deserted shack of a restroom.  It was one of those tiny buildings in the dry landscape of Nevada that had no running water.  She took one hard look at that pit toilet and decided she could hold it a while longer.  The harsh desert had finally called her bluff, and we had very little requests to visit toilets after that!

Driving home this week from our family reunion in Oregon brought back these memories.  #2 dropped her restroom quest a decade ago, but we are now entertaining her father's quest for authentic food in our travels.  After deciding to take a break from our road trip, Kent turned to Yelp.com to find a restaurant serving something other than our usual travel staple of fast-food burgers or sub sandwiches.  

We found a recommendation for the Martin Hotel and Bar in Winnemucca, Nevada, which is known for its good, homey Basque food.  Kent has learned through experience that really good food is found in hole-in-the-wall establishments where the proprietors care more about the food than they do the ambiance.  He was therefore pretty excited as we pulled into the gravel parking lot to find an old building with hitching posts along the porch and Christmas lights drooping from the balcony.  A plate by the front door dated the construction to the 1800s.  The interior, with its outdated carpet covering an uneven floor and its mismatched dining sets, had him drooling!  The tin-plated walls sported shelves holding stuffed toy sheep and plastic plants badly in need of dusting.  We ordered our food and proceeded to the restroom to wash up, not suspecting in the least that we were about to enter a restroom truly worth exploring!

Our entrance was greeted by fake sunflowers on an old dressing table accompanied by metal powder-room chairs.  I had to snap a close-up photo of the floor (shown a paragraph above), which looked like a mixture of gravel and wood chips held together by an epoxy that had yellowed with time.  The stall doors were solid-wood, interior doors, but trimmed short.  I entertained myself in there by examining the old screwholes and outlines in the many layers of paint where a hook, a hinged latch, and doorknob had each previously held the stall closed in their day.  #4 emerged from her stall expressing her amazement at finding a real pull-chain toilet that still operated as such!

While Yelp might not ask for ratings of restrooms, I definitely recommend this old, sheepherders' inn.  The hotel's history, which plasters the dining room in black-and-white photos, old stock certificates, and handwritten letters from the owners' son adds to the charm of the place.  With chorizo hominy and lamb shank that literally fell off the bone, I can recommend the food, too.  Just don't miss checking out the restroom!