Ok so, if you’ve been reading my blog faithfully over the years, you’ll know that I have some opinions on public bathrooms. Many opinions on public bathrooms. So please, don’t misunderstand me: I love public bathrooms. Every time my query “do you have a bathroom I could use?” is met with a “Yes!”, I am grateful for that bathroom. I’m grateful even if there’s no hook for my purse, and I have to hold it to my chest while peeing. Even if the seat is covered in tourist urine. Even if there’s no soap in the soap dispenser, and I have to slather myself in hand sanitizer from my purse. Even if there’s no toilet paper, and I have to use the tissues I always carry with me specifically for public bathrooms with no toilet paper. I’m grateful for a bathroom even if there’s still-standing water (at least I hope it’s water) on the floor, and I have to hover over a seat-less bowl while holding bags of shopping in my arms, while I change and o.b. tampon and wipe with a tissue and use hand sanitizer because of course there’s no toilet paper or functioning seat. YES, that has happened to me, and NO, that’s not “The Worst Public Bathroom In New York City” story.
If you’re easily nauseated by stories of public bathrooms, don’t read this blog. Just don’t! No good will come of it, I promise you. Or — and this is really important — if you’re afraid of rats. Don’t read this blog! That’s a spoiler for what’s to come, but trust me, you should just CLICK AWAY! Read something from the archives. How about this piece? Or this one? Neither of those blog posts have dead mice in the toilet. OOPS! Spoiler! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So it starts on a Sunday morning. Some friends of mine lead monthly walking excursions around the NYC area which we call “the walk” amongst ourselves but I will sometimes call “the hike” to outsiders to the group because… it’s really more like that. The shortest of these “walks” was probably like 6 miles, the longest I’ve been on was more like 11. Treks range from the urban-est of settings as “walking down the entire length of Broadway in Manhattan” which of course traverses Times Square, to deep woods in Staten Island or the Hudson Valley. Wear sunscreen! Bring snacks! Stay hydrated! And it’s also advisable that you pee before you get started.
It was this aim that I sought to satisfy before a “walk” that started in Bay Ridge and wound up the coast through Industry City up to Red Hook. This isn’t as easy to do as you’d think. Maybe there’s a Starbucks near the start point, but not always, as we’re in a remote area. The next best thing to attempt is a large-chain drug store. This particular Rite Aid didn’t have a bathroom, but they pointed us across the street to a “Gourmet Deli.”
Non-New Yorkers, I must explain something to you. We have these things called “delis,” we have these things called “bodegas,” and it seems like nobody can really agree on the difference between the two. Some will point out that “bodega” is the Spanish word for “grocery store,” and that once a bodega starts making fresh food (sandwiches, like your BEC), it becomes a “deli,” but NOT ALWAYS. Some Delis are Bodegas, some Bodegas are Delis. From my perspective, it’s a matter of SIZE: a bodega is a small hallway with two aisles separated by a single center aisle and a cat. A deli is a larger establishment, contains more than two aisles. Both can make sandwiches and have freezer sections. Don’t even stop to think too hard about your mom & pop corner store, that gets too complicated, and we’ve gotta pee, remember, so let’s get the fuck back to this story.
So we enter the Gourmet Deli and at first, yes, it appears “Gourmet.” Low lighting, imported chocolate at the counter, very nice. The cashier is friendly when we ask about a bathroom — a rarity. Another employee leads us to the back, aaaaaaand this is where things go downhill.
“Downhill” as in “downstairs” — we’re led down a set of narrow, steep stairs to the basement. OO! Watch your head! Low ceilings and shelves upon shelves of Gatorade, Snapple, and Monster energy drink. Our Gourmet Deli Guide leads us around a corner to the front and to a small door, then disappears inside. We’re totally about to be murdered in front of this case of Snapple, aren’t we? I’m so glad I’m not there alone but have two witnesses… I silently brace myself for a knife-wielding murderer, but instead, our Guide reappears, leaving the light on. We’re not gonna die! We’re gonna pee! Hooray!
We do the obligatory “You first, no you first,” and it is my good fortune that I am the first to use this bathroom. I do the quick check: door locks, check. Toilet paper, check. Soap and paper towel by the sink, check. I lift the toilet lid and see that my positive appraisal of the bathroom was hasty, because there’s something floating in the bowl.
Something… brown… ?
But not that thing. Because this brown thing has a tail. And feet. And whiskers.
I don’t scream. Are you proud of me? I just watch. And stare. And blink. But it doesn’t go away. THERE’S A MOUSE IN THE TOILET. I realize it’s not moving. Dead? Now I’m sad. I have a moment when I think, “the poor thing.” Then I remember how badly I have to pee, and that there are two companions waiting for me outside, also needing to pee.
Now, what do you do when you find a dead mouse in a toilet?
I have thoughts. Fish it out? Hmm, not enough soap there to wash my hands after a plunge in a deli toilet. Not enough soap in the world to wash my hands after fishing a dead mouse out of a deli toilet. Flush it down? What if it clogs the toilet? What if it overflows onto my feet and floods the bathroom and the whole basement? Enh, still better than plunking my hands in — rather toilet water on my feet than my hands! I shut the lid (out of respect), send good vibes to the afterlife for Mickey, and flush.
After the flush cycle, I tentatively lift the lid. He’s gone! And there’s no sign of flooding! Whew. But now I’m left with the dilemma: am I really gonna pee in a toilet that just played host to a mouse funeral? My bladder answers the question for me: HELL YES. I’m a New Yorker. I’ve peed in some gnarly places. This is not a deal breaker, this is at worst, a funny story.
When I come out of the bathroom, I make a snap decision: My friends deserve to know. I break the news gently: “I’m sorry… I think you should know… there was a dead mouse in the toilet. It’s gone now. But just in case… I thought you should know.” I didn’t want to burden my friends with my horror, but I would’ve felt way worse if they’d had to experience another mouse encounter. I would’ve wanted a warning, so I decided it was only fair to give them the option of knowing.
We rejoin the group, have a lovely walk, and the rest of the day goes splendidly! We take in gorgeous views… I buy a “build your own ukulele” kit (I know, I know) and we have lunch at a lovely dining hall. By the time we’re checking out at IKEA at the end of the journey, I’ve completely forgotten the horrific toilet experience. It’s just another New York story! The story… of The Worst Bathroom In New York City.