The Bathroom

privy2The modern bathroom has only been with us for a little over 100 years. In fact, they haven’t really changed much in basic design. Fancier fixtures, whirlpool tubs, a lot more glass and polish, but the basic arrangement of a tub, a sink and a toilet have remain relatively unchanged.

Before the “standard” bathroom evolved, the acts of washing up, bathing and elimination usually took place in wildly different places. One washed up at the washstand provided in the bedroom, or often on the back stoop. Bathing, which took place off and on, but not regularly, was done in a galvanized tub, usually placed in the kitchen near the stove where the water was heated. The act of elimination was done in a chamber pot, or the outdoor privy.

The modern bathroom was a luxury of course. Here in the United States, the Statler hotel in Buffalo installed a bath in every room. Unheard of at the time, but, over time, bathrooms began to appear in homes. Most families had one bathroom of course, they were expensive to install and it was just more practical to have the one because of the expensive plumbing and fixtures required.

When I was a kid, we had a regular ranch style house, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen, and then down the hallway was the bathroom and the bedrooms. We never thought anything about having just the one bathroom to share among my parents and three kids – it’s just the way it was.

There were of course the “emergencies”, usually occurring on Sunday mornings when for some reason Dad seemed to take more time than usual in the bathroom. But, for us boys, being told to go pee in the backyard became common. Otherwise, we somehow developed a schedule where everyone had their required time, no one seemed to be left out, and we never thought that we needed more than the one.

I can remember the first time I saw a privy. It was 1964, our first visit from South Florida to visit my Dad’sfordfalcon
brother Hubert and his family in Tennessee. It was a special trip because Dad went out and bought a new car. A brand new 1964 Ford Falcon station wagon.  As cars go, the thing was a turkey – the paint started coming off of it almost immediately, but, it was great fun for us, finding room in the back making our beds and trying to sleep as much as we could. Of course it didn’t have air-conditioning, and since much of I-75 was still under construction or didn’t quite exist, the trip from South Florida to Tennessee was the older US highway system and seemed to take forever.
privy2Anyway, we kids weren’t quite sure what to make of Uncle Hubert’s outhouse. There was a separate “wash house” that was outside the back kitchen door that held an old wringer washer, and I believe a shower stall, but, there was no toilet as we were used to having. Several years later a toilet was added to the wash house, but for several years we had to resort to the dreaded outhouse when we visited Uncle Hubert.

I can remember one of dad’s sisters having nothing but an outhouse as late as the mid 1980’s – long after I was grown up and had my own house, one with the luxury of TWO bathrooms.

The point of my story though is that bathrooms have evolved over the last 100 years or so from a luxury item, had by few, to a necessity, with even the least of us in America having at least one bathroom.

My partner and I own two homes, and between them we can count 4 full bathrooms and one half bath. You would think this might be enough bathroom space for a small army, at least compared to what we had to work with when we were kids.

Yeah. About that.

I am not familiar with the bathroom arrangements my partner had when he was a child. He’s a decade older than I am, but since bathrooms in this country have evolved fairly slowly, I’m going to assume that he and I had similar experiences, or perhaps he may have even had a bit more luxury in his life as he grew up in a town, where I grew up mostly on the outskirts of town – not quite country, but definitely not “in town.”

In Colorado, the master bath has an L-shaped counter with two sinks, a shower, and in a separate area behind a door is the toilet. A perfectly adequate arrangement one would think for two adults without children. Then, on the same floor, just around the corner, is the “guest” bath. It’s more your typical arrangement, not unlike the “standard” bath of 1915 – a tub/shower, a commode and a sink.

In Florida, the master bath and the guest bath are more typical of the “standard” arrangement as well, although the guest bath has far more counter space than does the master bath. Odd, but probably because the master bath has one of those triangle “garden” tub things that look better than they are practical.

Again, I digress.

The other day we got up early so that I could get my other half off to the airport so he could visit with friends and family. I’m an early riser, so my “early” is always a bit before him, and I’m accustomed to spending 30 minutes in the hot tub each morning.

When I came in, ready to take my shower so we could go, I find him occupying the master bath, shaving and bathing, so I figure I’ll just take a quick shower in the guest bath. I don’t often go in there, as I am usually able to meet all my needs in the bathroom attached to the master bedroom.

Nope. He has clothes spread out all over the guest bath and not a towel to be seen anywhere. I knew that if I tried to use the shower I’d end up getting something of his wet, and since he’s not the world’s best traveler, I didn’t want o take a change on adding to his stress level. I ended up waiting.

On giving it thought, it occurred to me that he does this in both houses. He seems to stock his razor and toothbrush in one bathroom, where he also bathes, but uses the other bathroom for medications, and for laying out his clothing both at night and in the morning.

I find this odd. Why does he need to sprawl across two bathrooms? In both houses? Is this behavior a result of being deprived of bathroom time and space as a child? Most of the time it’s not a bother, but if he’s occupying one, and has the other one tied up with stuff spread all over, it leaves little opportunity for other members of the household to also get ready. I thought the whole purpose of having two bathrooms in a house was for more than one person to be able to do whatever one does in a bathroom at the same time.

At night, I usually just toss my clothes on the chair next to the bed, and then put them back on again the next morning — or, on regular occasions will toss them in the hamper and get new ones out – but I don’t see the need to go to a different room and spread them out.

But, I know that people can be weird about their bathroom habits. I suppose I’m lucky that I haven’t been banished to a wash-stand and tub in the basement, heating water for baths over a hot plate. But, there are days where I just wish he’d pick A bathroom instead of using pieces of all of them.

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