45: Live Together, Pee Together

45: Live Together, Pee Together

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Live Together, Pee Together

My roommate says, “I’m going to take a shower and shave, does anyone need to use the bathroom?” It’s like some weird quiz where he reveals the answer first.

~Mitch Hedberg

I thought I was ready for dorm life. I had five other family members, plus a dog, so I was used to noise and being around people all the time. Furthermore, I had spent three summers in an academic program on a college campus. I knew how to set boundaries with roommates, raise and lower an extra-long bed, and I knew to bring snacks for late-night cravings.

But there was one element of my college that I was not prepared for. I discovered it on the first day, when my parents were helping me unpack my things, and Mom returned to my tiny single two seconds after she’d left for the bathroom, her cheeks pink. “The bathroom on your floor is for boys.”

“Oh good!” said Dad, rather insensitively. “I have to go.” But he, too, returned sooner than he should have. “I’ll just go when we get out of here,” he muttered.

The bathroom was coed.

And not just that bathroom, as I discovered after drinking way too much iced tea at the Welcome Freshmen Picnic. Every bathroom in my building was gender-free.

It wasn’t exactly the gravest dilemma in the world. It was just a little jarring to walk into the bathroom and pass that guy with the mohawk, who I’d seen at the picnic, brushing his teeth. Should I say hi? Or should I just head to the stall? And what if I had, you know, a little more substantial business to do? Was I supposed to just let loose with him standing two feet away from me? What if he brought it up later? I could see it now, saying hey to him on the quad, followed by his reply: “That was a huge dump you took last night, huh?”

What would I say? “Yeah, man, that chili was killer.”

I settled for a nod as I walked into the stall, and waited to hear his footsteps trail off before proceeding further.

Our bathroom was located between two hallways, so the quickest way to get to the next hallway was to walk through the bathroom. In other words, the bathroom was like an extension of the hallway, and thus, rarely vacant. It was routine to hear snippets of conversation as people passed through while you were showering.

“So last night Jared told me he wanted to open up the relationship.”

“He did not!”

I wanted to run out of the shower and scream at them, “Please let me shower in peace! I’m around people all the time! Can’t I at least have a quiet shower?” But I couldn’t, because I was naked.

Or worse, I would look down and see the hairy feet of the guy showering in the stall next to mine and realize, ew, he was not wearing shower shoes, or have him call out, “Hey, is that you, Eve? This is Chris!” and expect me to carry on a conversation, or the very worst, seeing two pairs of feet in the stall next to mine. Why couldn’t they be considerate and at least wait until they had access to a private bathroom?

The older students, it seemed, had fully adjusted to our private business taking place in a public space. On my third week of school, I found a manila folder taped to the inside wall of a stall with a pamphlet sitting inside. It was titled Read While You Poop, and contained student-written essays, poetry, and comics. Another day, I entered an upperclassman hallway to find several students of both genders crouching conspiratorially in front of the bathroom door. They motioned for me to halt and stay quiet.

“Matt’s showering,” one of them whispered. “When Lauren gives the signal, we’re going to run in and pelt him with water balloons!”

I began to see that there were two approaches I could take to the bathroom situation. I could continue to cringe every time I had to go, to whine about privacy and loathe anyone who complicated my bathroom experience, or I could make like my upperclassman friends and find the humor. After all, it wasn’t the shower-interrupters or male toothbrushers’ fault that the building was designed this way. The best I could do was to go about my business and let them go about theirs. And with the exception of the occasional drunk guy who forgot to close the door to his stall (which was just gross), the whole coed bathroom-hallway setup was, after all, pretty comical.

By the end of the year, when I saw Chris in the hallway with his bathrobe and shampoo caddy, I said, “Hey Chris! Showering, huh? Hold on, I need to do that too.” I ran to my room to don my own gear, and flip-flopped my way over to the shower stall next to the occupied one. I closed the door, and heard the water start next to me, removed my bathrobe, and turned on my water.

“So,” I said, reaching for my shampoo. “Have you started the Psych paper yet?”

~Eve Legato

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