Family Bathroom

Four AM in Boston, which is 2 AM in Montana, is clearly really, really early as a wake-up time. But necessary, if we were to get to the airport by 5:30 for the 7:00 flight. We started the day tired, and wrung out from lots of days of lots of driving, sleeping in five different places in ten days, and all of the across-the-map emotions that come from our not-very-often visits to New England and my family.

By three o-clock in the afternoon, five hours into a six-hour airport layover, all of that context was my only rationale for snipping bitchily at/about a complete stranger.

Well, that, and the complete stranger who’d snipped bitchishly at/about ME an hour or so prior in the women’s room, where I was with Alden. “This is the women’s room,” she sniffed, her make-uppy face wrinkling in irritation.

I didn’t say anything, just stared for a minute, realizing that her prissy little point was that Alden (who is FIVE) should not be there struggling to reach the soap dispenser and get the automatic faucet to work. That he should be on his own in a SeaTac men’s room while I bite my nails outside the door. Right. And this is her point because, why, exactly? Because this five year old kid with three missing teeth is clearly causing pearl-clutching distress in the tender sensibilities of the fragile sex which uses the women’s room? How, exactly, was his presence so offensive? Did she think he would use the sink as a urinal? Peek under the door in hopes of catching a glimpse of boob? Spread Boy Cooties around the place?

We finished up the bathroom business and I tried to shake it off.

Until three hours or so later, when we headed for the Family Bathroom. This is a precious little place in the airport, a bathroom big enough for two or more people to enter, so you can help anyone who needs help in the potty without cramming everything and everyone into a single stall. as I discovered when traveling with Alden when he was younger. We were never stroller users, but for people who do, they are essential. For me and Alden, just a better choice.

So I tried the handle. Locked. EVERY family bathroom always seems to be locked. Popular places. So we waited. A while. Jiggled the door again. Nothing. No voice from inside, no flushing, nothing. Waited a while. Then knocked, and called out, “Anyone in there?”
“Yes,” a woman’s voice. “Yes there is.”

Ok, we waited, and wandered away a bit. A tired looking man in his thirties with a boy about six or seven, the boy bald-headed and riding in a stroller, made their way toward the Family Bathroom while we stood a bit too far away to be obviously “waiting” and so we moved back closer– not asking them for our “spot” back, though– bald-headed kids get complete and total dibs.

And we all waited. Alden and I had been there for a total of about 10 minutes, when, finally, the door opened and a woman swept out. Unaccompanied. Alone. No kids. Looking like she had just stepped out of a corporate dress-for-success manual. Tall, slim, heels, the whole bit. As the man and boy slipped into the precious privacy of the Family Bathroom and she passed me I said, quietly but loud enough to be heard, “Nice.”

She stopped, and turned. In a measured but tight voice, she said, “I’m a nursing mom. This is the only place I can pump.”


I said nothing and she moved toward the women’s room, just down the hall. Alden and I continued to wait, while I felt hot tears of shame and tiredness and frustration. But after a few minutes during which I imagined what kind of care was taking place in the Family Bathroom, I simply took his hand, said, “Come on,” and headed for the women’s bathroom, where we did our thing quickly and uneventfully.

Back in the hallways, I saw her, the glamorous (nursing) corporate (away from her young infant) mother clicking along in her (I could never walk in those) heels–and I said, “Hey– ”

She turned. And I blurted, “I’m really sorry–  I’m, we’re, just really exhausted…”

She took a step toward me and said, “No, it’s OK… I know it’s just, I understand, I don’t LOOK like I’m…”

I steamrolled on, “Yeah, I thought, I don’t know… you were changing or something… but, I’ve been where you are…”

“Oh, so you know…” she said, “It’s just, it’s really hard…”

Going our separate ways, now, and I said, one last time, “I’m just really sorry.” And she said, “Thank you, for saying that.”

I felt tears again. And, yeah, mostly because of not enough sleep and too many negotiations about what snacks we would and wouldn’t be having over the course of the day and the prospect of another hour before our flight home. But also because, you know…. It’s just, it’s really hard.


4 thoughts on “Family Bathroom

  1. Just goes to show we don’t know what each and every person is battling. I try, not always successfully, to use discretion when I see something that I would normally turn my nose up. Like the young family in the grocery store one night at 10pm (sometimes the best time for me to go since the kids are all sleeping.) I initially scowled at the family for dragging their tiny children to the store at such an ungodly time and the kids were making their displeasure quite known by shrieking at the top of their lungs. Then I saw them again in the parking lot loading a shopping cart full of groceries, two infants and a toddler into the tiniest, dirtiest, oldest car I had seen on the streets of Missoula for some time. It made my eyes sting to see them. I wished I had something to give them, like a newer, safer car. Their battle was tough, I shouldn’t judge.
    Good for you for tracking her down to apologize. Not many people would do that.

    • *sigh* You’re so right. It’s really easy to fall into that self-absorbed place… but we don’t know what’s going on for someone else. We could all use a little more understanding with each other.

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