Tuesday, February 19, 2008

For Staff Use only

We have a serious problem with bathrooms at this school.

Our school is organized into several free-standing buildings (the California way) that the students roam between throughout the day for their classes - the gym, the office building, 5 classroom buildings.... Four of the classroom buildings are grouped together in a spoke-like arrangement around a small, round, cement courtyard. They are numbered the 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000 buildings. Only the 1000 and 3000 buildings (which face each other, sort of) have bathrooms, and only those bathrooms on the first floor are kept unlocked. During class time. Before school, after school, and Nutrition, and at Lunch, these bathrooms are closed and the bathrooms in the 6000 building (way on the other side of campus) are opened for students. Do you find this difficult to keep straight? Let's throw this into the mix - students are not supposed to leave their classes for the first and last 15 minutes of class time for any reason (to prevent hooliganism, I believe), and during these times ALL of the bathrooms are closed and locked. Do you have it now? Will you remember this easily, after having been given the rundown? Would your 11-year-old self with bladder control issues remember it? Or be able to abide by these clear, sensible, reasonable urination guidelines?

Neither can the students at my school.
The library, of course, has its own single-sex bathroom. It's a gift, a treasure, a hot commodity. That is, until the students begin to find out it's there. They do find out, and pretty quickly, because who am I to deny a wiggling, red-faced youth who will probably not make it down the stairs much less across campus before ruining his life and his day by having an accident? So I let the emergencies sneak back to the Staff Only bathroom, because I am a kind person who is concerned with the prevention of urinary tract infections and all other varieties of torture inflicted by our school's riot-proof setup. Once in a while, though, I cruelly turn on the poor dears, put my foot down, and scream, "No more!". No more will I find paper towels stuffed into the bowl of the toilet (why? really. why?) No more will there be shredded toilet paper trailing out into the library's comfortable sofa and magazine area! No more will a droplet belonging to someone else find its way onto the back of my leg! Enough!

I am in one of these I've-had-it phases now thanks to one particular young man whose name I do not even know. This boy, this insane little boy, has come to the library every day near the end of lunch for 2 weeks. I am always happy to meet a new student and we have become friendly, discussing the video games secret codes book he has been saving up to buy from the Scholastic book orders I provide. Once or twice he has started to leave, realized he blew his chance at an unlocked bathroom, and asked to use mine. Once or twice I have allowed him to do so. He's a little out of it, pretty sweet, and I was just doing a good turn. Then one day I told him it was the last time. He needed to get a grip on the school's bell schedule, on his own time, on the bathroom situation - tomorrow I would not allow it. He agreed.

The next day, young no-name reappears, and when he's told that it's time to go, he leaves with the parade of students storming out...or so it seems. A few minutes later, there's a rustle coming from back by the magazines. No big deal. Another few minutes later a definite clank can be heard from the teacher work room where the bathroom is located. I figure there is, what else, a teacher back there making copies or laminating. Several long minutes later, a flush. Not out of the ordinary at all, until my new nemesis comes slinking out of the room, hoping he will not be seen. A renegade bathroom user! Enough. No more. Staff only. Don't even ask. Don't even think about asking. Learn to hold it, that's my motto. I am done.
I used my best librarian finger-waggle as I shooed him out the door, and I haven't seen him since. Oh wait, that's a lie, he came back again today. I think I might scream.