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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

WomanLady? LadyWoman?

When I worked at DIA (Denver International Airport), as I have said before, I met all sorts of people. Most of them passed in and out of my life very quickly, some soon forgotten, and others still in my mind today. I also enjoyed spending time with others who worked at the airport in all sorts of functions. I made friends with airline employees who were baggage handlers, flight attendants, and pilots. There were people who worked in neighboring shops, or in the housekeeping departments of the airport, and numerous others. I had several interesting conversations with a delightful woman who spent her days cleaning and maintaining the restrooms in our busy concourse. After we got to know each other better, she gave me some advice. "Whenever you need to use the restrooms, don't use the ones on this level. Try to go when you have enough time to use the ones upstairs. Not as many passengers know about them, so they're much cleaner." I was rather surprised to hear her say this, because I knew that she worked very hard on her job, and left the bathrooms spotless when she was finished. I said as much to her and then she told me the reasons behind her advice.

During her time working on cleaning the restrooms, she had seen many downright disgusting things. The procedures for her job required her to get in line and wait for a stall to open if there was a line in the women's restroom. When she got to the front of the line, she could enter and clean the empty stall, and then move into each stall as they became vacant. One day, when she was waiting in line in the women's restroom closest to our shop, she saw a lovely, well-dressed older woman about halfway down the line. Suddenly, the woman calmly pulled down her pants, squatted down, and defecated on the bathroom floor. Now, I don't know about any of you, but if I had to go that urgently, I would start begging the others in line to let me go ahead of them so that I would not soil myself. If someone told me they were in that condition, I'd certainly let them get ahead of me in line. In fact, I'd start telling the other women in line that we had an emergency and someone needed to go first. I've done so in the past, in fact, especially when there were children involved that were struggling with needing to go as soon as possible. But this woman never said a word, showed any signs of distress, or asked if she could get ahead of anyone in line due to her urgent need to go. She just decided to do so in the middle of the restroom, leaving the airport employee to deal with the mess she had made. She made no comments or apologies, just made her deposit and left. 

I was shocked to hear this story, and grateful for the advice I was given. Whenever possible, I used the less-frequented facilities on the upper floor of the concourse rather than the busier ones on the main level. Unfortunately there were a few occasions when I didn't have enough time and was forced to use the main-level restroom. Without giving too much revolting detail, let me say that I was stunned at the filth I encountered on some of these visits. It bothered me in so many ways. How is it that we women can have such little respect for ourselves and for one another? Have we forgotten that it is okay for a woman to be a lady, a courteous, caring person?

There seems to be too much of an attitude of "there's someone who gets paid to clean this up." Yes, it's true that someone is paid to clean the restrooms at the airport. This person has to clean numerous bathrooms and may not get back to the same one for several hours. When someone leaves various messes on the seats and floors, they are not only being rude, they are being incredibly selfish. How would they feel if people left horrid messes in three of the four stalls in a restroom, and there was a line, and they really needed to go? How would they like it if someone came to their house and left the bathroom so foul that nobody else could use it? When I worked at the airport and found the bathroom so scandalously treated, it felt like that to me. No, it wasn't my home, but those were the facilities that I needed to use every day.

I haven't worked at the airport in many years, but the other day I needed to use the restroom at my local supermarket. It is always clean and well-stocked, but I had to flush several times before using, because the woman who was in there before me hadn't bothered to make sure the tissue flushed all of the way down. Maybe she thought that the store employed someone full-time to flush the toilets for those who simply can't be bothered? It reminded me that although the previous individual had inconvenienced me a bit, her actions were nothing compared to what I had seen before. I spent the rest of the evening thinking about whether I wanted to think of myself as a woman or a lady. The conclusion I came to was an obvious one for me. There's no reason I can't be both. I can be a strong, intelligent woman who is also a genteel, courteous lady. Caring about others is a virtue I don't want anyone to go without, but I can only control my own behaviors. I am a woman. I am a lady. I am womanlady. Or ladywoman. I haven't decided yet which one sounds better, but I know that they both feel right!