I haven’t been discussing Crohn’s disease much lately, mostly because I don’t have anything new to say about it; I am sick some times, and not others. When I am sick it isn’t critical (and in this I am profoundly lucky, and I know it). I still don’t have health insurance, and therefore do not pursue treatment.
But something happened last Saturday that made me think about what I thought was a carefree, Crohn’s-having lifestyle. I realized that what I’d actually done was to craft an intricate and rigid framework to live within, and totally without realizing it. Anyone with bathroom issues does this, but I know where the bathrooms are in each and every store, and which are preferable.
- The Trader Joe’s bathroom is easy access but a single-stall and people will rattle the door while you use it. B-
- The bathroom at Top Foods is easy access and large enough to never have a wait, but are sometimes closed for cleaning and are next to the employee entrance and there are often workers standing outside the door chit-chatting. B+
- The Co-Op is no good on almost every level. D+
- The bathroom at my work is off the main work floor, which means that we keep no secrets from each other. We know one another’s poop schedules and occasionally comment on them. No score, as it is like going to the toilet at your friend’s house. (Super F from anyone else.)
- The book store requires that you ask for a key, and then the bathroom is an uncomfortably large, echoey single-staller, and people rattle the door, giving rise to that tension that it’s not really locked well enough and someone is going to open the door straight to the bookselling floor and there you’ll be, pants dropped around your ankles, the sound of a hellmouth opening beneath you. F
- Target’s bathrooms are perfectly accessible, perfectly large and always, always open. A+
Except for this last Saturday, when they weren’t.
Whatever it was that required Target to close their toilets on a busy Saturday I cannot say, but the look of horror on my face must have been sufficient for a staff passerby to approach me and say “There’s a restroom next to the pharmacy!” Really? I was aghast. How could I not have known of a second toilet option at Target?
Of course the pharmacy was like 100 miles away on the other side of the store, the side I’d just walked from after abandoning all my purchases in the sudden and urgent need to find a toilet. (As an aside, I truly expect to be accused of shoplifting one of these days for my tendency to try and hide my purchases-to-be in a store just before using the toilet, since I’ve tried just leaving them outside the bathroom and come out to find them partially or all taken away.) Back at the pharmacy I found it: a single-stall handicap access toilet recessed back in the blood pressure monitor area. Well! I had no idea! Also: there was a line to use it.
I sat on a nearby bench and waited, focusing on remaining calm and loose. If I tense, the urge increases. While I sat and my turn came, a young girl of maybe eight darted by me and into the bathroom as her father shouted “Jenny! You’re cutting in line!” He apologized to me, genuinely embarrassed, and I told him I understood. I did and I didn’t. I get that she really had to go. But I’m 32 and if anyone is pissing or shitting themselves in Target, it is her.
I made it safely to the bathroom, but had plenty of time to wonder about my self-brainwashing. I had essentially forgotten that I still had this issue. I rarely go places where I can’t easily find a bathroom and in the back of my mind, I know which ones to hedge my bets on. I swing between finding it frustrating and comforting that I could achieve a mental place where I forget that I have agonizing bowel movements that strike without warning, and leave me exhausted and shaking, headachy and weak for hours afterwards. So I guess I still have Crohn’s disease.