Friday, July 20, 2012

Turns Out Freud Was Right ~ Life Lessons from Public Restrooms

While Freud may have stretched logic and been a bit of a nut job about some things, it is certainly true that things you see and experience as a child stick with you and shape who you are as an adult. Sometimes without you even realizing it.

My Public Restroom Rule

Had someone asked me, and I really stopped to think about it, I'm sure I would have realized my public restroom usage issues a long time ago. As it happens, it didn't really come to light until my oldest was potty training.

No, I don't have an issue using a public restroom. Unless the seat is, um, wet, or something inherently gross like that, I don't even get the willies about the actual using of them.

My hang up has more to do with the establishment in which the restroom is housed. I have to be a customer. I must buy something while I'm there. It's a compulsion. Be it a gas station or a fast food restaurant, a purchase must be made or I find it physically impossible to walk back out to the car.

The first time I took my daughter into a gas station to relieve herself, I came out with a pack of those miniature powdered donuts for my husband. After several minutes staring at the donuts, he just looked at me and asked, "Why?" To me, the answer was simple, "Because we used their restroom." To him, I was just weird.

The Exceptions To The Rule

After that, I started paying more attention. Curiosity prompted me to consider if there were times I could use a facilities restroom and not make a purchase. I was surprised to learn the many exceptions to my self-imposed rule.

1. "Shopping" Stores
Generally speaking, unless you're a teenager traveling with your youth group, you don't browse a gas station. You don't stroll the aisles, casually shopping. You go in, get what you want, and get out.

Lots of stores are the opposite. Department stores, for example. Plenty of people go in, look around, and leave without making a single purchase. I have no problem using the restroom without making a purchase in these stores.

2. Rest Areas
Not a single compulsion to hit the vending machine. I don't even feel a need to use the water fountain.

3. Large Stores
I feel a bit of a twinge when I go in a grocery store, but it is easily suppressed and I can go in, do my business, and get out.

4. Busy Stores
This one, I think, surprised me the most. If a fast food restaurant is six or seven people deep in line, I can use the restroom and leave without a care in the world.

All of this got me thinking about why I end up with stockpiled Starbursts and drink cups in my car.

It's All My Dad's Fault

See? It's getting Freudian here. Turns out, it all goes back to my dad and stories he told about growing up. For a while, my grandfather owned a service station and my dad would often work the counter.

He really hated watching people come in, use the restroom, and leave without buying anything. That meant that he didn't go anywhere without being a customer. Normally, we would be purchasing gas or food anyway so it wasn't an issue, but somewhere along the way it sunk into my psyche and I am now physically incapable of using the restroom in an establishment where someone can see that I didn't patronize the store.

It's weird, but there you have it.

The Benefit of Knowing Why

Now that I know why I feel this way, I can manage it. I select my establishments with better care. I consider my purchasing options as I pull into the parking lot. I know all the cheapest items at our usual locations. (Our second is recently potty trained. We have to stop at least once a trip and there's no telling her to "hold it".)

While this is a funny example - my husband laughs at me for it all the time - it shows that digging down to the root of our idiosyncrasies can sometimes help us manage them.

Do you always have to sit in the same spot at church? Can you only park in pull-through spots? Does everything have to be clean before you can leave the house?

These compulsions are not always a bad thing. It's not a bad thing to be the customer of a place where you are using the restroom. However, anything that you can't control about yourself can haunt you or hurt you at a later time. For example, our budget is really tight and we really don't need to spend $10 a month on candy and drinks.

Many times things that are ingrained to the point of compulsion will take a lot of digging to find the root cause. But it's worth it to know that you can take back control of your decisions and your life.

Even if it is only in the area of public restrooms.

What about you? Do you have any strange compulsions? What created them?

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

1 comment:

  1. i think it is more of a male female thing--my husband could go in a sit down restaurant and not feel bad at all about using their bathroom and coming right back out---not me :)