Locked public bathrooms freak me out.

They cajole panic and claustrophobia. I’m ok with pooping in a hole or peeing behind a tree; nature is no big thing, but locking a portapotty door is not an option. I can hover, hold the weight of my mid-race, shaking thighs over a shitter, but I hold my breath out of fear, not due to the waves rising from the darkness.

Accidentally locking myself in a toilet is too possible. You’ve seen my life. Crazy things can happen.


So when I use a public bathroom, especially a portapot, someone has to stand guard. I won’t lock the door. It used to be my eye-rolling kids, sometimes a friend. More than once a significant other. It’s hot stuff, this bathroom bandito. At races, like last week’s Portland marathon, things can get a little tricky, balancing the rush behind an unlocked door.

Just before the start of the race, waiting in the start corral before the national anthem and then the slow jog to the start line, I had to pee. Or I thought I had to pee. Nerves make it hard to tell.

I’ve run with the need to pee, real or phantom–entire marathons. Here’s the strategy: I run until the lines at the portapotties shorten. Mile 5. No line. Need to pee. Dash to the side and enter. I don’t turn the lock because, well, I usually have a lookout.

This time, the unintended lookout was the nice woman who called, “Hey, someone’s in there” just as the door opened, midrelief, and I watched aid station volunteers passing water and oranges through the stream of runners who didn’t once look my way before whoever had opened the door, closed it.

What does peeing in an open-doored portapotty and teaching have in common?

No one actually cares what we are doing.

We all think someone is watching; someone is waiting to catch us with our pants down.

The truth:

  1. Everyone is mostly minding their own shit.
  2. Someone is probably actually look out for you.
  3. We all have jobs–running our own race, passing out bananas–that’s more important than thinking that others are thinking about us.
  4. Even if someone wonders what’s going on and steals a glance, they really aren’t going to see anything anyway.

So carry on, teachers and runners. Do what you need to do, the way you need to do it. Don’t let anyone tell you to get a look out or lock the door or not be so scared of what bothers you. You do you. Really. No one is looking your way.

Published On: October 12th, 2022 / Categories: Blog /