Please don’t take this as some political position paper here, okay? Look, I just haven’t been able to understand the legal language in North Carolina’s “House Bill 2” well enough to take a firm position on the entire bill. But I did hear some guy on television the other day mention “taking away bathroom rights” from transsexuals
Now that hit home with me. Where did that right come from, and if it is really a right, then why the hell was my right to go to the bathroom denied me so damned many times?
In my life, and as recently as just a few years ago, I have been denied access to toilets in Circle K’s, Seven-Elevens, and many family owned convenience stores. “No public restrooms here!” I was always told by the honest ones. “Toilet out of order,” was the other excuse for denying me my right. And my favorite – “We have no toilet.” I always wondered what those workers did when they had bowel issues while at work.
Please bear with me while I tell you a few key bathroom rights stories from my life. It all began when I was very young and barely old enough to even use a toilet. Look, I had a dad, and I have an older brother. My dad traveled with his work. The brother was quite a bit older. So when I was a small child, I really never saw much of either of them. I hung out with my mom and slightly older sister. One night after my Dad returned home from work, he saw me sitting on the toilet to urinate. Sitting was something I learned from my sister.
His words to his wife when he saw what he did? “Marie, you’ve got to separate those two!”
Now, two things here. Where the hell was my right to privacy at that time? And why the hell was I denied the right to use the bathroom the way I wanted to? Now look, I’m a guy. So I’m kind of glad he did what he did. But still!
Then there were a few more instances that occurred during my college days in the mid-seventies and even later. Another happened when my son was old enough to follow televised “rastlin.”
I think it was the Spring of 1974 when some friends and I left Chapel Hill, North Carolina to spend Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale. The beach and the beers and the parties were fantastic. But one evening, toward the end of our break, a few of us decided to travel to Miami. We just wanted to see the place. Hell, we were from a place about a thousand miles away from Miami. We had to see it while we were there. We had no desire to go “clubbing” that night. We could no longer afford such a thing. We were simply sight-seeing.
Then it happened. One, then two, then all of us had to use a bathroom. We walked from establishment to establishment, begging the proprietors at each of them to allow our normal and natural bodily functions to do their normal and natural things. We were denied that process at every stop. We had to be their customers to pee on their porcelain. Our only recourse was to public-urinate in a downtown Miami alley. Thank God the local police were doing a Crockett and Tubbs thing on the waterfront or something somewhere else.
We were not arrested.
Probably it was a couple of years later when a dozen of us piled into two cars in Chapel Hill to drive to a lake near Chattanooga to visit a friend who had a house there. Now, we clearly broke the law on that trip. Beer cans were popping open even before the engines on the two vehicles properly fired. The last can was popped as we pulled into the lake house. So, you can see why, at some point on the trip, all twelve of us needed to exercise our bathroom rights.
Now, I am not certain of the sexuality of all of the folks on that trip, but I do know that there were men and women along. And all of us needed to urinate at the same time. The problem was, we were on some middle-of-nowhere Tennessee road. There wasn’t even a Circle-K or Seven-Eleven! And, because we weren’t twelve guys who had to go, we had to find some place. Twelve guys could have gone in a dozen empty beer cans while driving and riding if we had to!
The best we could find was an old family owned motel. It was kind of late at night, but the office lights were on and the “vacancy” sign was still flashing. So a few of us, I think all guys, went into the motel office and very politely explained our situation to the old woman behind the desk. And asked to use the motel restroom. The dear old lady pulled a Circle K on us. “No public restrooms here,” she declared. We begged her. We explained that the girls on the trip needed a place to go. Still – “No public restrooms here.”
Damn. The other guys and I returned to the cars, told everyone else what the old lady said, then did what we needed to do. We pulled the cars ahead about a hundred yards and everyone jumped out and ran to the safest and most private places they could to urinate. The girls all ran to huddle next to brick at the base of the motel cottages. The guys mostly just took a few steps away from the car to get somewhat closer to a tree, then let it fly.
Well that’s when something else let fly. Bullets from the rifle of that old Tennessee woman’s husband. He was firing shot after shot in our direction. To this day, I don’t know if he was aiming at us, or just trying to scare the hell out of us. But the latter is what certainly happened. Until that night, I had never seen a female run with her underwear around her knees. I did that night. And I ran, too. Finished or not!
Things like this never happened in Chapel Hill, one of the most progressive towns ever. That’s where I lived even after college and after my son was born and got old enough to watch “rastlin’” on TV. One of the most popular rastlers at the time was Ric Flair. They called him, “Nature Boy,” so you would likely figure that what he did was in complete alignment with his nickname. But one late weeknight, Nature Boy was arrested in our town. For urinating behind a bush.
And one time I actually chose to use a ladies restroom. I am sure that was against the law. It was in an office building in Lynchburg, Virginia. I saw where I needed to go, and I went for it. At first, I was a bit puzzled by the lack of urinals there, but I calmly entered a stall, curiously noticed the feminine hygiene machine on the inside wall of the stall, lifted the seat and did what I needed to do. About halfway through my biological function, I heard a woman’s voice. Man I was confused. I wanted the hell out of there! Once I left that bathroom, I realized the sign on the door had been changed. It was one of those sliding things that read “MEN.” instead of “WOMEN.” Some clown had switched the damned things.
Look, no government entity and almost no business ones these days deny anyone the right to use a restroom. But it happened often to me, to my guy friends, my girl friends, and to Ric Flair. Our problems were never sexual. They were never political. They weren’t even about big city law.
Our only concerns those times were about our bladders. And we dealt with it. And we survived.
Well, Nature Boy probably paid a Chapel Hill fine. But his bladder is doing well these days, I suppose.