Damn, my bladder feels like it's going to burst. My friend looks alarmed. "Didn't you go before you left home?" she asks, as if we were stuck on a ride at Disney World as opposed to sitting in a nightclub. It's either face the inevitable or leave, and it seems silly to go home just to use the facilities. I decide to brave it, even though I forgot my rubber gloves and disinfectant.
Comedians are always joking about how women go to the bathroom in twos or threes. I'm going to set the record straight: it's not because we're insecure and tribal, or having hot lesbian sex. It's because every time you relieve yourself in this city, you take your life into your hands. The Gulf War had nothing on the germ warfare we battle in there.
Your first challenge is to gain entry while avoiding contact with all surfaces. If it's a door with a knob you have to twist open, you're screwed. The best thing to do is wait until someone opens it from the inside and slip in as she leaves. If the door swings on a hinge, you can either use your shoulder to nudge the door open -- with the idea that you will throw out the top you're wearing later, as even a hot-water wash and 90 minutes in the dryer does not kill fecal matter -- or turn your back to the door and kind of nestle it open with your bum. You can also try the Femme Nikita approach: kick it open with your foot and hope nobody is on the other side.
When choosing a stall, use your sense of hearing as well as smell. Some-times washrooms are equipped with chunks of pink or blue deodorant that traumatize the nasal passages with the smell of lye and roses. You may be unable to detect malodorous signs that a stall may be dangerous.
If the stalls are occupied, listen for certain sounds -- retching, vomiting and the pitter-patter of drops on hard surfaces are all bad signs. I can detect the crackling sound of a panty-liner being ripped from underwear and thrown on the floor from 30 feet. Gross, I know.
You may assess the situation by looking at the feet beneath the stalls. There are certain postures that signify women are up to no good in there. For instance, standing on tiptoes is not a good sign. Neither is someone's feet sticking out with the soles exposed. The media thinks women are wearing platform shoes because the '70s are back. The truth is, we're wearing platforms to prevent our feet from coming into contact with the fetid floor muck that can rise as high as two inches.
Once a stall becomes available, it is important to use the above-mentioned Femme Nikita approach. You will encounter one of two kinds of locks: the broken sliding bolt or the broken twist-and-turn. If you're wearing a coat, keep it on rather than resting it on any germ-laden surface. Never set your purse down on the back of the toilet seat or, God forbid, the sanitary-napkin disposal unit.
The toilet lid will either be up or down and covered with mysterious moisture. The bowl will either be clean, full of bodily fluids or wadded up with toilet paper. Do not be tempted to sit on what appears to be a clean seat. Do not attempt to lower or raise the seat. Don't do anything. Gently slide your underwear down to a position somewhere around your mid-calves. Sliding them above the knee may cause them to be splashed by friendly fire, and sliding them to your ankles may bring them in contact with the floor.
Once you have slid your underwear into position, inch yourself backward while bending in a half-squat until you are hovering over the toilet bowl. Do this without touching the sides of the stall. You may have to hold the door closed with one available outstretched finger. Now try to go without hitting the seat, while preventing your panties from touching the bowl.
Your next challenge may be the procurement of toilet paper. If there is none, you are in for a drip-dry. Don't accept toilet paper from anyone else. Their hands could have been touching the door, the toilet seat, anything! If the toilet paper is the little waxy, non-absorbent square kind, you will need at least 10 or 11.
Now it is time for the flush. Do not touch the toilet handle. Stretch out one leg like a ballerina and flush with your foot. Now get the hell out of there... especially if the flushing noise continues for longer than a minute. Cover your face with a scarf or your hands -- a recent study found that every time a toilet is flushed, it shoots a Hiroshima burst of bacteria eight feet into the air.
It now becomes necessary to wash your hands. This seems a bit self-defeating, as you must touch the germ-laden tap, and the water will not be hot enough to achieve the sterilization you'll need. Touch a paper-towel dispenser and die. Don't think you'll be saved by holding your hands underneath the dryer -- a study shows that those things actually shower you with more bacteria. Your best bet is to hold your hands out in front of you, like the Bride of Frankenstein, and let them air-dry. Or you could go back to your table and wipe them on your boyfriend's shirt. What the hell -- there's nothing you can do at this point. You've been contaminated.