Daughter’s doctor appointment drew me to the heart of our city, up to the 9th floor of the Doctor’s Building.
While Daughter was entertaining her doctor, I slipped from the waiting room and paid a brief and welcome visit to the 9th floor women’s restroom.
A quick check revealed that I was alone. A quick peek into each stall encouraged me to choose the middle one – third from the entrance.
Another woman entered the restroom as I entered the stall and closed the door. She chose the first stall.
Eager to release the coffee I’d enjoyed earlier, I paid little attention to what was happening two stalls away from me.
At least, I didn’t until I heard a commotion coming from the first stall.
Rattling, clanging, banging and a few softly spoken curse words prompted me to ask, “Is there anything you need that I can get for you??”
There was silence.
And, then a woman spoke.
“Yes, this toilet tissue dispenser won’t release any paper. Would you mind terribly handing me some tissue? I hate to ask, but…I’m in a bit of a bind.” (Nervous laughter ensued.)
“Sure,” I said. Give me just a sec to pull up my jeans and wash my hands, and I’ll hand you all you need.”
“Thanks!” she offered.
With zipped jeans and clean hands, I entered the empty stall next to hers and pulled off a large amount of tissue and slipped it under the stall into her waiting hand.
She thanked me and I returned to the sink where I fiddled with my hair and smoothed my eye brows…looked up my nose and between my teeth…ran water…washed my hands again…dried them…sent a text…smoothed my shirt…dabbed at the water I’d managed to splash onto it….
And, then I heard a soft expletive uttered in the same feminine voice I’d spoken with just minutes before.
Then I heard the toilet flush. And, immediately, heard it flush again.
Her door handle jiggled and the stall door opened. I was standing at the sink, washing my glasses, and glanced into the mirror to see her exit the stall.
As she approached the sink, I stepped toward the paper towel dispenser. As I reached for a paper towel, the young woman spoke.
“Would you believe that not only could I not get any toilet paper, there also was not a trash thingie in the stall?”
“Unbelievable!” I uttered. I stepped to my right and turned to face the open door of the stall she had vacated just seconds before. The water in the toilet bowl was still moving.
The toilet paper dispenser was jammed. And, behind it was the hollow metal frame that held the feminine hygiene trash receptacle, but the receptacle was missing.
I turned to look at the young woman. She had not exited the stall with anything but her purse. And, she had not thrown anything into the trash. Of that I was certain.
“I had to flush it,” she said. “It took two tries before it finally went down and stayed down!”
“It?” I asked.
“Yes, the pad I was wearing. There was no place to put it…no where to put it…no trash thingie in the stall,” she said.
“Oh…you flushed your pad…wow,” I said out loud before I caught myself.
“Yeah, I mean…what was I supposed to do? Bring it out of the stall with me and throw it away here in front of everyone? I mean, really? That would have been SOOO embarrassing!” She said this with eyes wide and great sincerity.
I stood looking at this precious young woman who had just flushed her period pad down the toilet because she was too embarrassed to bring it out of the stall with her.
As she carefully washed her hands and glanced at me in the mirror, I offered: “It would have been okay if you had thrown it away out here. In fact, I wouldn’t have even noticed if you had. People don’t pay attention to what other people do as much as we think they do. Just because we are aware doesn’t mean anyone else is. And, remember…this is the women’s restroom. It’s where WOMEN go, where WOMEN gather, where WOMEN take care of needs. Everyone who comes in here knows about periods and understands the need to dispose of used products. It’s like the sisterhood of the traveling pads. They are either traveling into the stall or out of it. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s normal. It’s natural. And, it’s not something we need to be ashamed of or feel a need to hide from others.”
There was a pause and I waited for her thoughts concerning what I’d said.
What came instead was, “Do you think it will stop up the plumbing?”
“The pad?” I asked.
“Yes, do you think it will?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Personally, I hope it keeps on traveling! But, I’m out of here before it has a chance to do otherwise and they come looking for the one who flushed it!” I said with a smile.
“Me, too!” she squealed. “Let’s get out of here, sister!”
And, we did…exiting the women’s room loudly enough to turn heads and earn a stern look from the receptionist.
The sisterhood of the traveling pads…I was in the presence of many women today as I went from place to place. I wondered…how many were menstruating? And, of those who were…how many belonged to the sisterhood of the traveling pads?