The Lethal Toilet Seat

(This post pulled from the pregnancy chronicles.)

I swear public bathrooms are going to be the death of me.

Last weekend, Dean and I snuck past my pregnancy yuck to catch a movie. Before you get excited thinking I must be feeling better, know that Dean did all the pushing and I sat like a lump of butter quietly melting into a pool over the course of the movie. But it was worth it. It was one of the only times in the last two months that I’ve left the house for something other than a doctor’s appointment. And all in all, I faired pretty well. I wasn’t any more tired the next day and nothing that evening left me feeling thoroughly drained and about to pass out. Except…

… going to the bathroom.

The ArcLight Sherman Oaks is a fairly new, very spiffy cineplex with cushy, stadium seating and Scharffen Berger chocolate at the concessions stand. The bathrooms, along with everything else, are nicely decorated, clean and fully accessible. Believe it or not, therein lies the problem.

Accessible restrooms, even those only remotely fitting the term, usually come equipped with split toilet seats. You’ve all seen them, even sat on them. They are a bit longer than your average home toilet seat and, rather than being a round ring, they are open at the front, making more an elongated and slightly pinched “U” shape. This design is supposed to aid people like me who use catheters or need other assistance that requires getting a hand (or two) in there. This is all well and good and, in fact, quite handy. Until it’s time to get dressed.

The tips of the U almost always extend beyond the bowl below them. This makes them the PERFECT hook for whatever I happen to be wearing.

Pulling up clothes while seated is a feat on any sitting surface. It requires a great deal of mostly graceless shimmying, side to side and back and forth, on the verge of toppling while wrestling pieces of cloth, up and out from under, until they are more or less in the right place. I cursed for two weeks trying to learn this skill, required for discharge from rehab.

In a bathroom with grab bars, it’s easier to accomplish this gargantuan task while sitting on the toilet, rather than, say, transferring butt bare to a wheelchair and wrestling with it all there. The grab bars let me lean further in each direction which takes the weight off my butt (one cheek at a time), allowing clothing to travel more freely. Conversely, once I’m in my chair, I can only lean a tiny bit, supported only by the wheels. I suppose in a perfect world, there would be bars positioned in such a way that I could get my chair between them. But since this isn’t a perfect world, and the toilet is always in the way, the easiest thing to do is stay put and wrestle on the bowl.

But then there are those damn hooks.

Dean had gone to get us popcorn and I took myself (hey, look at me, all by myself) to the bathroom. Wheeled over the carpet (might as well be tar), pulled open the heavy door, and made my way to the handicap stall at the far end of the (enormous) restroom. Got inside the stall, locked it behind me, positioned my chair and transferred onto the toilet seat.

Stopped to gauge my fatigue. Was my heart rate elevated? Did I need to put my head down?

Nope. Doing OK.

Wrestled my clothes off, pulled out cath’ing supplies from the bag under my chair, went through multi-step cath’ing routine until my bladder was happily empty and I was clean.

Stopped to gauge my fatigue. Was my heart rate elevated? Did I need to put my head down?

I could feel the fatigue climbing but was still OK, no need to drop between my knees. I sat still for a little rest anyway.

Then I had to get dressed.

I started the rocking, the yanking, cajoling. Pulling, pulling, pulling. But I couldn’t get my underwear up. I lifted my leg with one hand and tried to take a look. But I couldn’t really see. So, I felt around. Reluctantly. (I mean it was a toilet.) Turns out, my underwear was under the toilet seat. But wait. I’d managed to pull it not only under the U tip, but all the way past the little, round foot attached to the bottom of the seat. So now, my unmentionables were trapped by this little foot and my own weight.

I threw my body toward the opposite grab bar while yanking my underwear forward. It took several heaves but finally, my underwear was clear. It wasn’t on me yet, mind you. But it was free of the toilet seat.

The effort left me a bit winded but I was able to get my underwear on (gingerly finessing the U tip) and more or less in place. Since that’s the threshold for success, I moved on to pants.

I started hauling, what little grace and finesse lost to growing exhaustion and a deep desire to be no longer in a bathroom. Breathing heavy, heart rate up. Pulling, pulling, pulling. But the pants weren’t moving. So help me God, they were under the toilet seat, snagged on the little foot.

“Oh for fuck’s sake!”

That was it. Head down, upper body slumped on top of thighs, arms and face draped undecoratively on the seat of my chair. Drooling on my seat cushion, I think, this will be the death of me.

A few minutes later, after some rest and a little internal pep talk (“It’s OK. You can do this. You’re almost done. Yea, you!”), my breathing and heart rate relaxed and I slowly sat up.

Determined to accomplish this last challenge, and driven by the image of a female concessionaire finding me unconscious, dangling from the toilet by my yoga pants, I heaved my body sideways and wrenched my clothing out from under me. Mercifully, it came free with one try and I quickly shimmied right and left to get it on my body. Got the left butt cheek covered but the right, not exactly so much.

Too bad. Close enough. Time to transfer.

Up and over, and then again with the head down, one arm over the toilet seat, the other clinging to a grab bar.

Ridiculous. Just to see a movie. At a theater. While I’m pregnant.

After recovering a bit, I wheeled my sorry self out of the stall, past the sinks without stopping (I wore gloves, right?), through the heavy door to the lobby where Dean was waiting patiently, nibbling on popcorn. He took one look at me and said, “Oh, Honey,” with such a sweet, sad voice I wanted to cry.

He started walking over to me and I stopped wheeling. Right there. Right where I was. Just outside the door. In the middle of traffic. Too bad. I’d gone far enough.

He put the popcorn in my lap and graciously took over pushing my chair. Poof! The tar became carpet. We went to our theater, picked up our 3-D glasses, and I transferred into my cushy, stadium seat. Dean pulled my wheelchair in front of me and I put up my feet. Then shoved great gobs of popcorn in my mouth to appease the growing baby whose energy supply had been stolen by my need to pee.

But still, it was worth it. How to Train Your Dragon was a cute, sweet, fun movie with pretty good visual effects and a VERY endearing dragon. I recovered enough to watch in peace (thanks to a huge tub of popcorn and a not very hungry husband). And I didn’t feel any adverse effects the next day.

But man, those toilet seats!

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3 Responses to The Lethal Toilet Seat

  1. Madge says:

    I sure hope it has gotten easier since you wrote these words. I was struggling with you as you told this story. They need more people like you on the committee that makes this shit (no pun intended) for disabled people. I would support you 100%.

  2. Nicole says:

    I’m SO sorry! I was laughing hysterically. I know it wasn’t really funny at the time, but you wrote about it SO well! You have given toilet seats a whole new meaning for me. So glad you made it out okay!

  3. juliette ashmoon says:

    ok, if you ever need help at coa, ASK! also, maybe a dumb? is a skirt a possibility instead of pants?

    and i will never compain about a public restroom again either, except that most folks at most theaters leave them a mess. i inform management.

    for me w/ my knees, i just kinda “fall” on the seat. the quads are not strong even for a gentle lowering. hang in there woman!!!!

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