Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gas Station Bathrooms: A Remembrance

Clean and working? This looks promising!
Gas Station Bathrooms: A Remembrance

It's a hot summers day in 1977. Your in the back seat of a '76 Chrystler wagon, fake wood paneling on the side. Some crap tune is playing on the AM dial. The windows are rolled down, the breeze providing little comfort to the oppressively muggy day. But none of that matters. All that matters is you have to go to the bathroom, like NOW. And there's only one option available: the gas station bathroom.  *shudder*

If you shuddered in fear at this thought then you're obviously old enough to remember this ordeal. If not, then put down the pimple medicine junior and learn of the dark age of gas station bathrooms.

You see, unlike today's mini marts (gleaming grocery stores disguised as gas stations) the filling station of yesteryear was a dingy, dreary, wretched little hole that sold gas, soda, candy, cigarettes, and candy cigarettes. It was probably also a repair shop with a (equally dingy) garage. That's about it.

So what was it like? Buckle the fuck up and read on, brave soldier!

Your mom pulls the wagon into a gas station. It quite probably looks like this:

While dirty and rundown, at least it has "character." Then again, Deliverance had, "character."

She parks the car. You the notice the bathroom is on the outside (back in the day they were nearly always on the outside). So you head to the door and SURPRISE - it's locked. Well, your not really surprised. Of course it's locked. They were always locked, but you thought you'd try anyway. You thought, "Maybe, just maybe, today will be the day I don't have to go get..."

The Key

Usually attached to a piece of lumber or iron to discourage theft. Good thinking!
What's so bad about the key? Well nothing really, at least as far as the key itself; it's just a stupid key. But in order to get the key, you must enter into the small dark, dingy building also known as the lair of...

The Troll (sometimes referred to as: the attendant)

Gas station attendant c.1950
The troll you need to get the key from

Back in the 1950's the smiling gas station attendant would check your oil and wipe your windshield while he pumped your gas. By the time the 70's rolled around, the species had devolved (probably as a result of nuclear testing, scientists aren't sure) into a greasy haired, unkempt, rat-like troll man who communicated with grunts and mumbles; the smarter ones might know a few human words. I swear, gas station hiring guidelines must have demanded creepiness in their employees. "Your a former carney and rodeo clown? Welcome aboard, son!"

So, bravely you enter the station. The inside is dusty and smells like old oil mixed with stale smoke. A thin film of grime covers every surface. You cautiously approach the troll behind the counter. "Uh...can I have the key to th-" you start to say but the troll has noticed you. "HRSSE BLLARG NAKKR," he mumbles, thrusting the key in your face. You have it!

Dah na na na!
Now it's off to...

The Bathroom

You approach the door: a stained battered unwelcoming gateway to hell. *WARNING: GEEK REFERENCE* If Tolkien had made this the door to Moria, then instead of "Speak Friend and Enter" the Elvish runes would read: "STFU and Get Fucking Lost." Trust me, what waits beyond this door is worse than anything Moria had to offer.

You turn the key and behold, the door opens! Do you know what stale urine on a hot day smells like? Good. Now imagine that odor as an air freshener trying desperately to cover up a much fouler stench and you'll have a good idea of what greets you as you open the door.

Indiana Jones was still a few years away but I'm convinced that Speilberg and Lucas found some inspiration in a place much like this; navigating the "rest room" was like the hidden cave in the opening of Raiders. Did you duck while entering? Good! You managed to avoid the large spider suspended at face level. Watch out for the sticky gum! Make sure to avoid the stagnant pond in the corner! Is that centipede dead? Best not think about it...

You are here! At last! Your eye on the prize! You win!!

The prize.

You lose.

As bad as this looks (and trust me, it looks very, very bad) it may soon be over!  If:
  1. you only need to pee AND
  2. you have a penis,
then congrats! You're in luck! Just wad up some toilet paper, lift the lid, and badda bing! Mission accomplished
Fuck yeah

if you do not meet either condition 1 or 2 above, then it's on to... 

The Cleansing 

So, you've got a poopie or a coochie - or both. There's no getting around it; your flesh must come into contact with the toilet. Here's what you do, just wad up some paper towel...

Totally sanitary!
*sigh*. One of these. Are you familiar with the rotating cloth towel dispenser? No, well aren't you fortunate! These featured a cloth towel roll. You'd pull it to advance a clean section. The only problem was that there was NEVER a clean section. These things were notorious for jamming and most had not been changed since the Johnson administration. So what you were left with was a grimy, soiled, bacteria ridden slab of fabric which would render your hands dirtier than if you didn't wash. You used nature's towel: air. And your pants.

Okay, so you grab some toilet paper...

Fuckity, fuck fuck. screw it! Maybe the seat isn't too dirty and we can just...

guess again, fucker!

Guess not. Well, it's back to the troll's lair...

You return to the troll and boy, is he ever happy to see you again! "WHKNE TEGH PROMBGL NHE?" he bleats. You tell him about the missing TP. After a few more mumbles he returns with a precious new roll.

Back to the can! Now your ready! The shit's about to go down. Literally.

So you wad up your paper, run it under some water (wait 'til the rust clears) add a little soap, and...WAKE UP FROM YOUR FANTASY! Did you really think there would be soap? You silly, silly little person. They NEVER have soap. EVER. There might be a soap dispenser but it will only be there to taunt you. It will certainly be empty. 

So you take your sad little wet nap and wipe down the seat. It doesn't look much better. But at least you can tell yourself that you gave it a more thorough cleaning than it's likely had in months.

The next step is to tear strips of paper to put all around the seat to form a "butt shield." Now, at last your ready to take care of business. Finally, despite the flies, and the spiders and the stench and the unbearable suffocating heat, you are free at last! Time to enjoy the relief!

Wait...what's that? A plooper? ARGGHHHH!! The dirty toilet water has splattered me! ARRGHHHGRHHRHHHH! You die.

Well, that end the history lesson, kiddies. Remember this the next time you have to stop at your clean, air-conditioned mini mart to drop a deuce. Remember the brave souls who had to endure these conditions and be thankful for your good fortune.


  1. I always wondered if the key was to keep unsavory people out or it was intended to keep the monster that was raping and killing people locked inside the bathroom.

    I wonder what the bathroom would have looked like without the key.

    I enjoyed this blog entry.

  2. What a brilliant post! More truth in this one post than in all the travel brochures for "seeing America" I've ever glanced at. As an old guy (50 something) who criss-crossed the mid-west in the mid and late 60's with my family in Summer vacations... your post was a nostalgic 'blast from the past'

  3. Attaching the key to that ridiculous piece of iron? I would have probably pissed myself from laughing if somebody handed me that over, and crapped myself from being in the presence of the scary troll attendant.

    On the bright side, I wouldn't have had to use the toilet.

  4. Hey, thanks for the comments guys!
    @Drone - good point. However there were times a monster would have been an improvement...

    @rogue - Thanks! Yeah, this situation never figures into "good ol' days" conversations.

    @meku - On the not bright side, your leg is now the toilet...

  5. HAHA! I enjoyed this a lot. These toilets still exist in my town.

    They're almost luxury after having to use public toilets in China. It's standard procedure to have no toilet paper. They don't even have dispensers for it. If you want some you pay the old woman at the door and she'll hand you a single tissue. They don't have toilets either; just a hole in the floor for you to squat over. I didn't even know how to do it at first, and someone had to teach me.

  6. This is amazing! It's not so bad being a girl though, instead of actually sitting on the toilet, it's easy enough to just 'squat'. Not ideal, but it's better than the alternative.

    I remember at school, the toilet key for physics was attached to a plank of wood. The logic was that if it's bigger, it's not as easy to lose :)

  7. What an amazing post! This is one of the best blog posts, I've ever read. I must have literally laugh at my computer while my parents awkwardly stared at me at least 10 times. This blog is amazing.

  8. anyone know where I can purchase a '76 Chrys(t)ler Wagon?