You know, for the most part, being a restroom attendant is a pretty sweet gig. The hours are reasonable, the pay is decent, and I don’t have some boss standing over my shoulder telling me what to do all the time. But if I had to think of one drawback, I’d probably say my least favorite part about this job is the fact that I spend eight hours out of the day in a room where people shit in a toilet.
Now, I’m normally not one to complain. After all, I know times are tough, and the fact that I even have a job in this economy is not something to look down on. But the truth is, it’s sometimes difficult coming into work knowing that I’ve got to spend my entire day in an enclosed space where people noisily expel feces from their bodies as I stand at attention less than five feet away, listening to their every gasp and grunt.
Frankly, it can be kind of unpleasant.
Having to be on my feet all day is certainly a drag, too. But when it comes down to it, I think the part I enjoy least is the endless defecating and the resulting stench. You see, over the course of a typical workday, I’m required to stand around as dozens of people produce gallons and gallons of feces, and this actually smells pretty bad. In fact, it can be downright disgusting when one or more people are shitting their brains out in my immediate vicinity and I have no choice but to allow the pungent aroma of freshly discharged fecal matter to wash over me. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind not experiencing that every single day.
And what you may not realize is that when you spend eight hours in a room where people come for the sole purpose of defecating—which, again, I don’t particularly enjoy—the accumulated odor of all that human waste gradually seeps through your clothing so that you yourself actually smell like shit by the time you get home, even after you’ve taken a shower. Sure, not having any coworkers to chat with during the day is no fun either, but when I pause to think about it, I’d say it’s actually much worse that I become so steeped in shit vapors on a daily basis that I’ll be eating dinner after work and can actually still taste the shit smell in the back of my throat.
And when I finally go to sleep after a long day, I’ll invariably have another dream in which I’m standing rooted to the ground, unable to move as thousands of people walk up one by one and shit in front of me. Then I wake up the next morning, slap on my bow tie, and head right back to work for more.
This is what I do for a living.
Of course, being a restroom attendant has other disadvantages, too. My employer blasts the air conditioner all day, and it can get pretty chilly in the bathroom. Also, they play this annoying muzak over the loudspeakers, and a lot of the time I get stiffed on tips, and—actually, no, forget about all that. Let’s get back to the constant shitting for a second.
Sometimes I’ll be in the bathroom where I spend 40 hours a week, when a sweaty, red-faced man will burst in and frantically charge into the nearest stall while hurriedly unbuckling his pants. Then there will be an unbearable moment of pregnant silence, followed by the nightmarish clamor of loose excrement flooding out of the man’s anal cavity. When he finally finishes shitting, I’ll hear him scrape at his rectum with toilet paper, and after he emerges from the stall, he’ll walk over to the sink to wash his hands. Then, as I hand him a towel, we’ll make eye contact, with the acrid bouquet of his poisonous bowel movement hanging in the air between us and him knowing full well that I just spent 10 minutes listening to him shit. Then—occasionally—he’ll give me a dollar.
This happens to me about 100 times a day.
Granted, every job has its problems. I suppose I could have chosen a different occupation—mechanic, assembly line worker, bus driver, you name it—and I’d probably find something else to complain about sooner or later. But, come to think about it, I’m pretty sure none of these jobs would require me to listen in as a bloated, constipated businessman audibly strains and sighs minute after minute in an effort to force out a stubborn bowel movement.
But, you know, there’s really no use in playing “what if.” The fact of the matter is that being a restroom attendant is my job, so I’ve got to do it, even if that sometimes means waiting calmly as some guy locks himself in the stall for a half hour, emitting scattered bursts of liquid feces from his sphincter. Even if I’ve developed the ability to determine what someone has eaten based on the unique smell of the shit they just took in my presence. And even if I’m required to smile and say “Have a nice day” to some sociopath who just viciously defecated in one of the toilets without flushing. That’s just the lot I’ve drawn, and so there’s nothing for me to do but make the best of it.
And, hey, it could always be worse. I could be dead.