Trapped Between Anxiety and A Toilet Seat


As a child I had a recurring nightmare.  I dreamed that my bedroom was on fire and when I went to escape through the window I saw crocodiles waiting for me on the ground below.   Today that childhood fear of being trapped came true when I went to the lab to do routine diabetes blood and urine tests.

Under the circumstances of my “normal,” I’m more anxious than most.  But I’m used to an elevated state of anxiety, and generally do okay.  Under the circumstances of I have to go pee in a cup in a public bathroom, however, even a champion worrier like me can be undone.

Logic always tells me to steer clear of the bathrooms right next to the counter where they hand out the pee-cups, and go to the general bathrooms of the building.  If there’s going to be mess somewhere, I figure it’s going to be in the place where hundreds of people accustomed to urinating in the luxury of a large bowl are instead aiming at a cup that’s three inches in diameter.

Thinking I was smarter than everyone else, and trying my best to look cool and natural with a plastic cup and a test tube in my sweaty palms, I began my search for a clean toilet.  Too bad my iphone doesn’t come with a magnifying glass, I thought, then I’d really be able to spot the filth.  Quickly I would learn that the filth in the bathrooms was highly visible – no magnifying glass necessary.

I will spare you the details and tell you that after examining six different toilets on three different floors of the building, I settled on the one that wasn’t speckled.  There was a chunk of dirty toilet paper on the floor but it was far enough away that I could completely avoid contact with it.

I closed myself into the tiny room, which wasn’t a stall.  There was a real wooden door.  I looked for a hook to hang my purse.  Nothing.  There was no place, other than the floor, to set it down.  The floor was out of the question, so I swung the purse around to the front of my body, holding the strap tightly with my arm, and guessed I would be able to manage.

Leaning forward and preparing myself for the act with my purse hanging off my neck made me feel like a horse with a feed bag on its face.  It also threatened to throw off my balance.  Since I had no intention of sitting down on the toilet, balance was of utmost importance.  I should probably lift the toilet seat, I thought.  It seemed -at the time- that with the seat up, it would be easier to do what I needed to do.  But I didn’t want to touch the seat.  I took a piece of toilet paper and grabbed the side of the seat.  As I began to raise it, the seat moved from side to side, and I heard the clink of a little piece of plastic hitting the floor.  Then, faster than I could say bacteria the toilet seat was tumbling.

I had touched it so delicately, with only my small fingertips protected by a wad of toilet paper. There was no way I had the power to launch a seat off its toilet.  But I had done it.  As it fell, I jumped back.  My purse whacked me in the chest.  The toilet seat landed with a thud right in front of the door, the door that opened inward.

So there I was, in a tiny bathroom, trapped between my anxiety and a toilet seat.  If I opened the door, the toilet seat was going to fall onto my feet.  In order to get out of the bathroom, I was going to have to move it.  In order to move it, I was going to have to touch it.  And remember- I still had yet to pee in the cup.

I thought to myself that other than falling into the toilet, not much else could go wrong. Just pee and get it over with. I looked away from the toilet seat, pulled down my pants, grabbed my cup which I’d left on the back of the tank, squatted over the bare white bowl, and did what needed to be done.  It was a neat endeavor.  I felt relieved in both senses of the word.  Then I remembered that I was still trapped.

Stay focused, I told myself.  You will get out of here.  You won’t be sterile, but you’ll make it out in time to have your urine analyzed! I adjusted my purse to a more comfortable position,  grabbed some toilet paper to cover my hands, cleared the blockading toilet seat into the corner, opened the door, washed my hands, went back for my cup of urine, and raced to the lab.   I then had to wait another forty-five minutes for my blood test.

I met Mike after all of this and we walked home together.  About a block away from the lab we stopped at a cross-walk.  Still shaken from the from the event that had just occurred, I thought I was hallucinating when I looked at the man crossing the street in front of us.  He wore jeans, a t-shirt, and flip-flops, and everything was totally normal, except that tucked snugly in his armpit, like a Frenchman’s baguette, was a toilet seat.

If you don’t believe me, ask Mike.

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Amy Stockwell Mercer
11 years ago

I love it! Too funny Jess, well told :)

Emily Patton
11 years ago

Ah ha haa!  I love this!  So, so true.  You had me hooked through the whole thing, Jessica.  Thank you for sharing your painful and hilarious encounter with us–you know we can sympathize.

11 years ago

great piece jessica!

Dr. Margaret A. Morris
11 years ago

Hah! So much sympathy. I have always been disgusted by how filthy the lab toilets are in particular. I’m always thinking, “Isn’t this supposed to be sterile?” Like it’s not bad enough that you have to hold your own weirdly warm pee in a cup. And then the little window that you put the pee-cup into– I can always hear the lab-people on the other side! Some privacy, please! But the worst part: at the Kaiser labs at least, there is a little chain next to the toilet. Above the chain a little placard says, “In case of emergency, pull… Read more »

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