Irene Water’s prompt for June is washroom stories. The rules are as follows: Please join in giving your location at the time of your memory and your generation. An explanation of the generations and the purpose of the prompts along with conditions for joining in can be seen at the Times Past Page. Join in either in the comments or by creating your own post and linking.
You can join in this challenge here: https://irenewaters19.com/2019/06/05/washroom-stories-times-past/
I have no idea what my generation is but I was a teenager during the 80s and 90s. I grew up in South Africa and attended a local high school in Johannesburg. The worst memory I have of my school days is the awful toilets. The floors were concrete and for some reason the toilets always leaked and there were puddles of water on the floor. I can remember trying to avoid those puddles and looking for a toilet that wasn’t leaking. I still have nightmares about those bathrooms.
I have always been an anxious person and my anxiety presents itself as a frequent need to pee. My family moved to Johannesburg when I finished my primary school career and I was enrolled in a large high school in our area. There were 300 children, comprising of 10 classes of 30 teenagers, in my year. The total number of pupils in the school was 1 400. That was quite overwhelming for a girl coming from a small town in the Western Cape and a convent into the bargain. I had lived a sheltered life up until I started high school.
I was so anxious and overwhelmed during my first weeks of school that I felt as if I need to go to the toilet all the time. My mother took me to the doctor and she gave me a bladder cleanser which didn’t help at all. An anti anxiety pill would have been more useful but they didn’t give those out when I was young as easily as they do today. I remember quickly slipping to the toilet in between each and every class and hoping that no-one would notice. Of course, a few mean kids did notice but fortunately for me, I wasn’t teased much about it.
Once I had settled down, everything was fine and I didn’t have this problem again although I always go to the bathroom before a meeting or if I have to present training or appear on television.
I thought I would also share this extract from my mom’s life as a small girl growing up in Bungay, Suffolk in the UK during WWII. It tells of her experiences with toilets when she first started school:
“The visit to the toilet stood out in Elsie’s mind as the only unpleasant experience of the school day.
The toilet block comprised of a row of toilet cubicles behind a screening brick wall. The passage in front of the cubicles did not have a roof or covering although the actual cubicles did.
The cubicles did not have doors, and a terrible smell of wee came from the toilets. Puddles of water pooled on the floor from leaky pipes. Elsie negotiated these as best she could, trying not to step into any of them. None of the toilets flushed properly. The smell made her gag, and she held her breath for as long as possible between gulps of air.
Elsie thought the school toilets were worse than her Aunt Mick’s. Ginger-haired Aunt Mick always looked tired and had a wary expression on her face. She was married to Father’s oldest brother, Charlie, a bad tempered and grumpy man, who had been exempted from being enlisted to fight in the war due to his status as a hay merchant.
Although Uncle Charlie owned the bit of land on which his bungalow and huge hay shed stood, they did not have a flushing toilet on their property. Aunt Mick and her family made use of a foul-smelling outhouse with a bucket system which was not emptied often enough.
Mother visited Aunt Mick frequently and would sit and chat to her while she did some sewing on her ancient sewing machine.
As a small girl, Elsie struggled with a weak bladder. She needed to go to the toilet more often than other children of the same age. Later in her life, clever doctors discovered that Elsie’s narrow urethrae prevented her bladder from emptying fully when she went to the toilet. This condition also made her prone to bladder infections.
The awfulness of the school toilets gave Elsie nightmares for years and resulted in a fear of public toilets that lasted for the rest of her life.”