Another Nightmare About A Dirty Toilet

toiletI’m not sure what happened to me as a child that had something to do with a filthy public restroom, but whatever that repressed memory is it must be a doozy. As far back as I can recall I’ve had nightmares about dirty public restrooms. I don’t know, maybe they’re more anxiety dreams than nightmares. I don’t wake up screaming from these dreams. I’m not freaking out in the dream. I’m just more or less trying to find a place to relieve myself but can’t find a toilet clean enough to do so. And it’s such a recurring kind of dream that I know there must be some sort of phobia attached to this weirdness. A cross between Agoraphobia(fear of public places) and wet, dirty, dingy, and overall filthy restrooms.

These dreams that I have are usually quite elaborate. I end up in a public restroom that turns into this labyrinthine structure that would be more suited for the catacombs of Paris than Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. These toilets almost always have dingy white tile covering the floors and walls. They resemble more of a 1950s Midwestern locker room in some nameless high school. A cross between a haunted gym class and a Bio-dome. The air is heavy, dank, and humid. I can’t smell anything(Praise Jebus), but my overactive imagination is enough to fuel some serious sense memory and give the illusion of a sense of smell. That broken toilet that sits in the darkened and grey stall overflowing with human refuse needs no ‘scratch ‘n sniff’ sticker for my REM-laden mind to “smell” it. It’s there, believe me. And the layout of these “anxiety shitters” can be likened to an M.C. Escher drawing. There are toilets and showers strewn throughout these Purgatory-esque bathrooms. Holes in the ground; toilets formed in circle patterns with no stall doors separating them; shower stalls where it looks as if a drunk with irritable bowel syndrome squatted and sprayed for days; sinks used as bidets; and there is always dirty, wet towels everywhere. Paper towels, cloth towels, dish towels laid out on the floor as if to soak up the the overflowing toilet brine. Is Freddy Krueger in this restroom trying to clean up? There must be a boiler room nearby causing all the humidity inside this hellhole of a restroom. And of course the toilets you do find that aren’t cracked or displayed out in the open for everyone to see you doing your business look as if they haven’t been flushed in months. “Satan’s soft-serve” rising above the toilet lid like some sick, twisted joke. Of course, the fact that I really have to go in these anxiety-ridden dreams makes them all the worse. Searching throughout this maze of ceramic and marble covered in human waste there is nary a dry, dark corner to hide in and relieve my bladder so I can return to whatever family fun awaits me outside those heavy, wooden bathroom doors. These dreams only start as I enter the bowels of Hell to empty my own bowels.

I’ve had several instances of these situations in my waking life. As a kid going to a ball game in Chicago and having to go to the bathroom only to be mortified and the “pee trough” that awaited me at Comisky Park. Those rest stop toilets on the way to nowhere special that awaited you on Interstate 90, they always had some sort of dark surprise waiting for you. Maybe in the form of an broken urinal, no paper towel to dry your hands, or perhaps the creepy dude that just stands just outside the restroom staring at brochures for “Ohio’s Biggest Bait ‘N Tackle Outlet Store” and “Amishland”. But for me, the most traumatic restroom experience that I ever went through had to have been the Dune State Park train station in Chesterton, IN. The wife and I took our kids, along with my parents and my brother and his family on a birthday trip to Chicago. It was my mom’s 60th birthday and we thought it would be a great time going to the Museum of Science and Industry, then hitting up Giordano’s for some stuffed pizza. We all drove to the train station in Chesterton and thought a train ride would be fun for the kids. Of course we got to the station and a few of us had to use the bathroom. My dad and I took my son to the men’s room. What we discovered was something not unlike a crudely assembled recreation of Mt. Everest, made out of various Southshore riders’ undigested breakfast sandwiches rising past the toilet seat and well into the air. It was a grotesque display of human laziness AND ingenuity. My first thought was towards the last couple of desperate souls that hovered above that Hell-ish shit sundae and added to it. The variable brown cherry on this human waste confection. I was appalled and began to get a little sweaty. I think my reaction would’ve been the same had a seen a severed head, or a raccoon smoking. No, I think my reaction would’ve been much less with either of those two options. As badly as my son said he had to go we quickly exited that abhorrent display of humanity called a bathroom. There’s a gas station probably a mile down the road. Could you not go down there? And then there’s the state government that’s in charge of the upkeep of this restroom. Why? Dear God. I mean at that point I think if I’d had a say I would’ve had the entire building bulldozed and then the rubble burnt to a crisp with flamethrowers. Rebuild from the ground up, I say. Possibly bring a Catholic Priest in to bless the ground. Fortunately the train’s restrooms were in MUCH better shape.

Maybe I’m just a clean freak. I might possibly have some OCD-like tendencies. A combination of an overactive imagination and the need/want for a clean restroom to make myself a bit more comfortable makes for some strange anxiety dreams. They aren’t as prevalent as they used to be with me. They come from out of nowhere anymore. Maybe a walk into our main bath at home after one of the kids takes a shower and leaves two or three wet towels and their dirty clothes in a pile causes me to regress a bit. With the feel of a filthy Russian bathhouse I start to think about all those dank bathrooms I’ve endured over the years and I rush to remove the soiled towels and run for the Clorox Wipes. Not in my house. My bathrooms are better than that.

Either way, it feels better to get this off my chest. Maybe I can finally move on from these filth-laden anxiety dreams. If I move past this, then maybe I can conquer those high school anxiety dreams as well.


23 thoughts on “Another Nightmare About A Dirty Toilet

  1. Someone used to tell me (maybe this is a common saying), If you want a dream to stop, tell everyone. If you want to continue to have it, tell no one. May the sh*t sundae dream be a thing of the past.


  2. Great story.

    You are not alone in your bathroom hangups. Try having bathroom troubles abroad, and having no choice but to do your biz in a questionably “clean” toilet stall (a very busy McD’s in Toulon, France, 1988).

    You soon get over a lot of it, especially if you have frequent bathroom troubles from both ends (UTI / IBS), and you like outdoor concert venues (using Johnny on the Spots…those can be a worse experience than Lisa Simpson drinking the water at Duff Gardens.).

    I am certainly not saying I will choose to use a dirty toilet over a clean one – no, no! But sometimes I have to pinch my nose, close my eyes and hope I don’t touch Satan’s softserve because there is nowhere else to go – no crown land around to hide to do the biz, even. Might I add, I grew up going to people’s cottages where the only facilities was using an outhouse. I guess I have a more practical, stronger constitution for that sort of thing.


    1. You’re like a toughened soldier who’s seen it all and I’m the dainty fancy lad that throws up in his mouth driving by a rendering plant.

      You get bonus points for referencing Lisa Simpson’s wild ride at Duff Gardens. Excellent.


      1. You’re welcome.
        You dudes have it harder than us ladies. At least we have privacy with stalls. You guys gotta pee next to / in front of each other. What kind of culture forces men to…sigh…
        I guess at least we aren’t dropping trou’ over a hole in the floor or using our left hands as toilet paper. Thank heavens for North American sensibility.


      2. Exactly. But then again once you hit the Plains states you come across some truly Neanderthalic behavior. Stone age stuff. Let’s just say I’d think twice before shaking anyone’s hand in Wyoming, Kansas, or Missouri. Hell, even parts of central and southern Indiana are pretty suspect. Guns ‘n Bibles ‘n Republicans oh my!


      3. I find that so interesting!
        Up ‘ere in the metropolis of “Tor-on-to” (let’s say it right, not like Ontarians actually say it (“Trono”), I haven’t run into that too much. Go North towards Northern Ontario, and that is cottage country…and a lot o’ nothing. Thankfully, there is a lot of Crown Land where if you have to stop, you can hide and do your biz. Just watch out for moose and bear…and the confounded black flies.


      4. It’s like the Old West in the Midwest here. There are pockets of progressive thinkers and liberal-minded folks, but you have to know the secret knock and the right record and coffee shops to stop in at.

        Cottage country. That sounds lovely. Like Vermont.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Toronto is very much a multicultural city. Racist comments or close-mindedness are not tolerated here. (That’s why Rob Ford is considered such a baffoon).

        I am shocked when I go back to my hometown and people still say (ahem*)…pakis or use the N-bomb, or disparage gays. They wouldn’t survive long in Toronto with that mentality.

        And cottage country is basically the fortress of solitude only open to those who can drop a cool mil for a shack and an outhouse.


      6. Rob Ford. The role Chris Farley was born to play. Too bad he lived just like the guy.

        Yeah, I think Vermont is pretty much the same way. That’s where millionaires go to pretend they’re ‘unplugging’ from society and get back with nature….in their $10,000,000 “cabin” on 40 acres next to some hidden lake in the woods. Would I have a spread like that if I was piling that kind of dough? Absolutely. But since I don’t I’ll just act like I don’t care(I do.)

        I’d like to visit Toronto someday. Just to say I have. I had the chance to go to Montreal for work many years ago but I left the company before I booked the trip.


  3. I think – much like loose teeth and public humiliation – toilet-nightmares are one of humanities biggest common denominators. I’ve seen things at festivals I can’t really believe to this day and it lets me question the human race every so often.
    However, I have to disagree with Sarca. Ladies don’t have it better. Usually, dudes have private stalls as well (urinals are not for #2 as far as I know) and could choose to #1 without the company. But dudes also can just decide to #1 in the woods or wherever in case the toilet-situation is so abhorrent that only a truly fearless soldier of sanitary horrors could use them. Ladies don’t really have that luxury. I actually think that’s the whole envy-issue Freud talked about.
    Anyways, thanks for sharing, the parcopresis-society (I just googled that, it’s the fear of public toilets) is greatful for that. I guess the fear of dirty toilets would be something like germ-parcopresis or – because it would sound snappier – agora-germ-parcopresis (AGPP in short). We would have to share with the Agricultural Pollution Prevention and the Army-Wide GTA Prioritization Program but maybe we can work together!


    1. So many acronyms, so little time. I’ll have to call in a favor to the AGPP(I know a guy who knows a guy), as without the acronym that’s a mouthful.

      I can only imagine the depths of sorrow, chaos, and degradation you’ve seen at festivals. Just the few I’ve been to were enough to make me quiver with fear and disgust. And I’d say fellas have it easier as well in the scheme of things. My hats off to you, ladies.


  4. Holy cow, man. I’ve been having toilet nightmares as long as I can remember. I’ll go to use my bathroom and their are two toilets instead of one; they know I’m there and will overflow or will mess with me. Same with the showers in the dreams too!!! Or I’ll need to use the restroom and it’s filled with dozens of clogged and disgusting toilets. I have these nightmares several times a month and I have no clue why. It’s nice to know I’m not alone though!!!


    1. You are not alone Kate. My anxiety with bathrooms, or I should say dirty, filthy, disgusting bathrooms goes all the way back to when I was a kid. Some of these dreams, in retrospect, were quite detailed and expansive. Bathrooms that looked like the catacombs under London.

      I’m glad we could share.


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