Sunday, December 03, 2006

Appeasing the Restroom Goddess

Someone had made a total mess of the ladies' room at Mervyn's. I have never been to Mervyn's before, but it was on our way back to the car from CompUSA and Flip needed a restroom. I figured as long as I had to wait for him, I'd use one, too. I get bored easily.

The mess on the floor involved an entire huge bottle of liquid hand cleaner, pink, which had apparently been left on the sink by the janitress. Two other women exited their stalls and cruised straight out of the restroom without washing their hands. I stopped at the sink so when the janitress returned, I was the only one in there, with wet, soapy hands.

She gesticulated toward the spillage on the floor, which the culprit had attempted to cover with a million or so paper towels, unsuccessfully, I might add, and began to scream at me in Spanish.

I can speak the language passably if I think about it, but she had me frozen in the headlights, mesmerized, with wet, soapy hands which I was attempting to rinse and dry quickly on my jeans since the paper towels, as I mentioned, were all on the floor.

The Spanish-speaking part of my brain clamped shut. All I could think to say was "No me. No me!"

She, the janitress, was loudly running through every known Spanish curse while making obscene hand gestures at No me. A lot of "putas" and "chingadas" mixed in with other words I didn't know. Even screeched en voz alta by a deranged harpy, Spanish is beautiful.

She planted herself between me and the door to the rest of the world, the rest of my life. "NO ME," I said again. "No me."

She was not impressed. She hefted another gigantic bottle of pink liquid soap and prepared to hurl it at me like a shotput. I was wearing a delicious jacket of the world's softest suede. Fawn-colored. It didn't come from Mervyn's. I love this jacket. Suede cannot be cleaned well. I knew real fear.

"Terrible people," I said. "Personas malas. They didn't even wash their hands."

"Puta chingada."

I made an end run around her and scored a touchdown. I got out of the bathroom.

Jeez, lady, I'm sorry you have a rotten job in the Promised Land and the coyote ripped you off when he smuggled you into my country. But that was No me either. And if you want respect, here or anywhere, you have to give it to others.

I cannot begin to imagine what her life is like. Very likely, it sucks. What I do know is that as long as she takes out her rage on innocent strangers, it will not improve. You reap what you sow. If what you sow is doodoo, that is what you will get back. Even America cannot perform milagros (miracles) out of nothing.



Yikes! I guess those women who skipped hand washing knew what they were doing after all. They wanted to get out of there quickly before anyone could accuse them of the soap mess and hurl Spanish swears (or worse) at them. ;)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


They didn't look as if washing was a regular activity, and I'm not sure anyone could have anticipated such an outburst.

It was kind of scary. I'm glad I don't shop there.

zorak163 said...

I'll be grossed out all day can people not wash their hands?

Christina_the_wench said...

Screaming at a potential Meryvn's customer? Her ass would be history if you reported her. Minimum wage job or no, you don't do that.

Lee said...

Holy shit girl...if I had run ins with the public like you do, I'd never leave the house.

Oh wait, I rarely leave the house.

Le Nightowl said...

Your post gives me another good reason for not using public rest-rooms :)
I think you were quite brave, under the circumstances.

Lex said...

Esta entrada está muy entretenida. Muchísimas gracias por la risa.

Son muy interesantes las diferencias entre las palabrotas, las malas palabras, de distintos paises. Chingada es super-Mexicana (y por aquello, no es parte de mi vocabulario), pero todo el mundo usa puta. Yo, con frequencia.

Ojalá que me hubieras llamado para ayudarte darle a ella lo que merecía, la maldita puta!

Red said...

Whoever left the ladies' room in that mess is an idiot, and no doubt about it.

But the janitress's job -- as shit as it might be, and I daresay it must be rather shit (no pun intended) -- is to clean the room. If everybody wiped and disinfected the seat after using the toilet, wiped and dried the basin after using it to wash their hands (making sure that there is no soap spillage), there would be no need for janitresses, and that crazy woman would be out of a job.

I think it's outrageous that she ripped into you without even knowing the facts.

And I am pleased to hear that you and your fawn-coloured suede jacket (which sounds lovely) are safe!

Odat said... do seem to get yourself into some messes! So sorry you got screamed at....but it was funny.....


velvet girl said...

Just as you dress for the job you want, you should act appropriately for the job you want. That's a start to getting ahead in this country. Maybe someone should tell her that. Then again, if she's verbally abusing and threatening restroom patrons, maybe the point would be lost on her. Some people are unhappy no matter where they are.

Oh, and those woment not washing their hands? That's gross and unfortunately common. Bleh!

Stephen said...

As much as I enjoy reading your essays, I think I enjoy the images you manage to find as illustrations.

BTW, thanks for the visit at my blog - and for being my first (and currently only) commenter.

Thailand Gal said...

Yikes! That woman sounds unhinged! I can understand her frustration with such a cruddy job, too, but... holy crap! Get a grip.



heartinsanfrancisco said...


One of them fluffed her hair as she whipped past the mirror.


I know. Strangely, I didn't think of reporting her. And I have no intention of becoming a Mervyn's customer. It's an ugly store. With a nasty ladies' room.


But then I'd have nothing to post about, would I, now?


I try to avoid them on general principles. Now I have a better reason.


Gracias por la leccion Espanol. Espero que la dama no here alguien. Es una pena que este loca. Creo que ella tiene dificultades.

Una vida en papel de bano no esta afortunada, si?

(Please excuse my bad Spanish- feel free to correct it - and the lack of accents. I don't know which keys they're under.)


My jacket and I thank you for your kind thoughts.

You nailed the thing that bothered me most - that she attacked on speculation. She obviously didn't see who did it or she wouldn't have blamed me.

And yes, the place was a mess. It was mean-spirited and stupid for someone to do that. Tending bathrooms is a rough job but somebody's got to do it. And she is the one who gets paid for it. Just the thought of this is terribly bleak.

Thank you for visiting.


Some of that peace you're always touting could have helped there.

I do seem to attract incidents, don't I? In Two Languages, yet. I'm glad you were amused.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


They did not wash their hands. And they probably went to the food court next.

How can people live like that?


I enjoyed my visit. And it's quality, not quantity, that counts, my boy. So quitcher bitchin'.


I have had to counsel myself through many crappy jobs (not washroom attendant, though) that there is dignity in any kind of work if you do the best you can.

That isn't always easy to remember, though.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

P.S. to Lex,

Maldita puta has just become my favorite curse, although I still like chingada.

Thank you so much!! We're always looking for new talent. :)

Mystic Wing said...

Fascinating subject for study—public restroom behavior.

I suspect the ladies' room is generally a good deal more civilized then the men's room.

The Chicago stock yards are more appetizing than the typical public men's washroom, especially those in France.

Kristi said...

Somehow my heart always goes out to the janitresses of the world...knowing I've left my share of soiled kid-panties in the trash.

As for the anonymous mess leavers...a pox on them for being jerks.

As for the ladies who didn't wash their hands...they may or may not already have a pox so I'll leave them alone.

Either way, you tried to do a good deed. No pox on you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mystic Wing,

You'd be surprised. Public womens' rooms can be quite disgusting. I hate to burst your bubble, but not all members of the Fairer Sex are delicate flowers.

Thanks for stopping by after what I said to you.


Um, thanks. But what good deed did I try to do? I didn't clean up the mess for her - after all, I didn't create it.

It was a bizarre little encounter. For all I know, the janitress is normally a lovely person who rescues cats and donates pennies to the poor, but something really terrible had just happened in her life.

Thank you for your visit!

nmj said...

Hey heartinsanfran, I can see it would have been quite intimidating to be threatened by this attendant -was she really going to throw the thing at you?! - but she's probably reacting to not just this one soap dispenser incident, but a lifetime of shit (excuse pun)... I am surprised that anyone could even think of reporting her, unless she had actually thrown it. But sounds like you dealt with her in a respectful way . . . and respect engenders respect - this lady probably hasn't had much.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I usually try to remind myself that "there but for the grace of God go I." It makes me more humble and less angry.

Steven Novak said...


More doo doo for me?

Why did you tell me this a long time ago? ;)


heartinsanfrancisco said...

I'm sorry, Steve. It looks like it's curtains for you.

Bird on a Wire said...

Thank you for justifying my fear of public restrooms.

Lex said...

You did great!!! As far as I'm concerned, language is about understanding and being understood. I understood you perfectly, so for me, it was perfect.

Glad to pass on maldita puta. Happy to be of service. Too bad you didn't have me on speed dial so I could have coached you in the heat of the moment.

And yes, a life in toilet paper has to be miserable. Sheesh. There are so many reasons why I think we need to give immigrants a freaking break. I won't hijack your comments with those thoughts though.

I loved this post!! Loved it!

urban-urchin said...

OMG! First Ikea and now this! Maybe try online shopping for a bit...

That's horrible. Sorry.

mist1 said...

Janitress is not a real word, is it?

katrice said...

I hate that this happened to you, but I think I hate even more that this lady was this angry at anyone.

I can't believe they didn't wash their freaking hands. My daughter and I went into Caribbean Jack's in Daytona Beach and a lady walked out without washing her hands. My daughter was mortified. I, unfortunately, see it often.

The world is gross. And angry.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Today I was in Neiman Marcus and Anthropologie. (December.) Both were delightful experiences, lovely salespeople, wondrous goodies.




Basic cleanliness is not too much to ask. Is it?


Is that a problem?

seventh sister said...

It could have been a lot worse than soap on the floor.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Seventh Sister,

No kidding! I wanted to tell her, "You're lucky it's not shit."

But it was all shit to her.

jali said...

I HATE to be blamed for someone else's crap! You have great control for not yelling back, "puta" for "puta".

The other chicks - Yuck! That's why I always open the door with a paper towel.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yeah. What she said. YEAH!!

I always mean to use a paper towel on the doorknob, but there weren't any. They were all on the floor, as stated.

What's a girl to do?

PUTAPUTAPUTAPUTAPUTA!! (Okay, I think I've got it now.)

Liz said...

When this stuff happens, I always wonder if there's a hidden camera crew waiting to jump out and give me $100 if I can last five minutes go without losing my cool.

Cece said...

*clapping* Awesome post! I envisioned it all, thanks!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm afraid you watched too much Candid Camera as a child. In reruns, of course.


Thank you!! Clapping back atcha'!

djn said...

Holy Moses! That would turn me off using public restrooms more than just about anything. "No me!" LOL -- that cracks me up!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Well, it's humbling to remember that I'm illiterate in a lot of languages. Of course, even my English pretty much failed me there.