College was my first experience with exclusively using a communal bathroom, and though it's already been a full semester, I still find myself hesitant whenever I need the bathroom on my floor. Using communal bathrooms is always slightly uncomfortable. It was one of the things I was most nervous about when coming to college, but it is much easier than I expected. These are some of the questions I had when I began my year, and here’s what I discovered.
1. How do I navigate this?
Your routine will shift now that you have to walk down a long hallway to wash your hands and brush your teeth. You’re probably wondering what to bring with you to the bathroom and whether you should bring your clothes in and change in the shower stall. Just become more comfortable using the bathroom.
The answers to these questions will reveal themselves. You’ll need a shower caddy for your shampoo and soap, but if you just need to run in and brush your teeth before a class, apply your toothpaste in your room and dash down the hallway with your toothbrush. No one will care if you walk down in your towel, but do whatever makes you feel comfortable. And don’t forget shower shoes!
2. How many people use it?
This is a question you may or may not want to know the answer to based on the general state of your bathroom. The answer also depends on your floor. For example, my floor has four bathrooms, so an average of 11 people uses each. They are generally impressively clean and I rarely run into my floormates there. Other floors only have two bathrooms, so twice as many people use each one, but these bathrooms have three stalls while the ones on my floor have only two. It really just depends.
3. Is there anyone in here?
Use of the bathrooms follow a pattern throughout the day that is determined by everyone’s schedules. On my floor, they are generally busiest from 7 to 9 a.m. and 9 to 11 p.m. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., it’s rare to see anyone at all, but in the late afternoon, there is a curious number of people showering. It always feels slightly awkward to be going about your business when there are other people there, but just remember—they care about what you are doing as little as you care about what they’re doing. And don’t be afraid to make small talk at the sink or blast music in the shower; you learn a lot about your floormates and find new music this way.
4. What’s wrong with this?
The shower is flooded or the toilet is clogged—these things happen in bathrooms all the time. I even encountered a rumor that the handles had been ripped off the taps in a bathroom in another building. Sometimes strange or questionable things occur, and you don’t have the power to fix them. So don’t hesitate to call your RAs! They can call the facilities department and know the appropriate channels for setting things right on your floor.
5. Who cleans it?
Even if the bathroom is always clean, know that it doesn’t magically stay this way; even at the room’s worst moments, someone is going to have to come in and fix it up. At my school, it is the housekeeper employed by the facilities department. In my building, it’s a woman named Jacqueline and she is genuinely one of the sweetest women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Remember this when you are using the bathroom—try to maintain its integrity in the interest of your housekeeper and try to get to know him or her—they definitely appreciate the acknowledgment!
6. Do I want to know?
Much of college operates on a need-to-know basis, so don’t try to break this trend with your bathroom. Whether you notice something weird in the trash can or you overhear a conversation, try not to overwhelm yourself with all the information and the weird items that collect in your floor’s bathroom. Just do what you need to do and it will all be okay!
While using a communal bathroom can be daunting, know that it won’t be nearly as bad as you think. Everyone is just as concerned as you are, so just remember to be considerate when using this public space. It’s a relatively temporary arrangement, and you and your floormates will bond over this unique college experience.
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