I know I’ve already mentioned the degree to which my temporal world has altered since becoming a mother, but the other day I was forced to confront in a most unsavoury manner the degree to which my spatial world has transformed too. I had just struggled with the pram to open the heavy door of a public disabled toilet, and keep it ajar long enough to wheel the pram through without injuring my shoulder, when I was overcome by the knock-down stench that awaited inside. I was retching even as I began reversing, until it occurred to me that someone might be waiting outside, and that someone would think I was responsible for the toxic stink that seemed to attach itself to my every pore. It was an awful thought, so I sprinted over to the toilet, nose pinched between thumb and forefinger, and with my free hand pressed down hard on the flush. But not, I’m afraid, without first involuntarily glancing down. All it took was that one split second. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what monstrous thing filled the bowl, but I’m going to anyway, because I need to unburden myself almost as much as the person who left the diabolical dump there for someone else to find.
Who. The. Fuck. Does that? Who takes a truly gigantic shit in a public toilet and a) doesn’t wipe their arse and b) doesn’t do everything in their power to get rid of it? This unholy beast could only have been left by someone so perverse they took a peculiar pride in leaving it behind, to inevitably foul the day of whichever poor unfortunate happened upon it. And of course I was that luckless wretch, though judging from the level of established air pollution, it had been there quite some time, so I was probably not the first to have my senses assaulted. I was just the first to flush it away.
Shuddering and gagging, I hurried away, feeling furtive and unclean. I don’t know why flushing the toilet made me feel obscurely implicated, but it did. And it made me feel dirty – putrid – even though whoever did the shit most assuredly hadn’t troubled themselves with the button I pressed. I couldn’t have lingered long enough to wash my hands at the basin, that would have been enough to force a puke in the sink, but I came to an abrupt halt back out in the square, gulped my fill of fresh air, then poured water from my bottle all over my shaking hands.
Afterwards, I couldn’t help but reflect on certain changes to my spatial existence, and this is one: a man did that shit, of that I am quite sure, and probably an able-bodied man at that. So okay, this jerk wanted to shit in private, and he’s not the first, but it’s women with prams who mostly use disabled toilets – either for themselves or because change tables are mostly located in these same facilities. Certainly in this neck of the woods, there are far more women with prams than there are disabled people, so chances are it’s mostly able-bodied men who don’t deign to use communal stalls, and women with prams who use this particular public dunny. So thanks, arsehole, for not flushing – I already clean up enough shit these days.
But disabled toilets – never used ‘em before. Now I know exactly where they are and which ones have change tables. Lifts – never used ‘em before. I’m a stairs and escalator kind of gal, and if I had to use the latter, I always walked up them rather than assuming the automaton position to the left. But now I have to find the lift – usually a mission of untold complication and time wasting. On the basis of this new experience, I’m now in possession of a curious item of empirical data: mature women of Asian origin prefer taking the lift, even if it’s just to go one floor, and they’ll stand there waiting for as long as it takes said lift to arrive, even though – unlike me – they might easily just use the frigging escalator or take the stairs. What is so special about the lift? It makes me wonder if there’s some sort of class-based cultural thing involved, like the well-heeled use the lift and the working classes take the stairs… but whatever it is, that’s who’s using the lifts of this city. Who knew?
Park benches? Oh, how right you were, ye of the hit predictions of my eventual motherhood-related park bench awakening. Indeed, that day has come to pass. Park benches are now of the utmost importance to me – all praise the park bench.
Grass. Master J’s idea of a daily constitutional currently involves rolling off the picnic rug onto the grass at the first available opportunity, whereupon he immediately grabs two fistfuls of the good stuff and rams them straight into his mouth. This effort brings him overwhelming happiness – grass is evidently one of the more pleasing discoveries of his short life. He loves it. I now constantly keep my eyes peeled for a nice patch of green that isn’t littered with pellets of rabbit turd and/or used syringes and/or used condoms and/or cigarette butts and/or sleeping vagabonds – all of which criteria severely limits my options.
Parents’ rooms… need I say more? Nearly in tears, I first discovered the one at the David Jones department store after an aborted attempt to find the elusive baby change room in the adjacent Westfields shopping centre. This mission involved multiple lifts – up and down – and increasingly crazed racing around each floor as Master J’s nappy spectacular started slowly seeping through his clothes. There was a confounding and unsuccessful attempt to navigate the map of the centre, followed by a total bum steer from centre concierge (a man who also couldn’t read the map), until I finally admitted defeat and RAN to David Jones, whereupon I waited for another lift, which I took to the very top floor. There, like an oasis of clean, well-stocked calm, lay the store’s parents’ room. Now I know it’s the gold standard, and these days I just head straight there.
I am receiving an entirely new education in navigating Sydney, one that involves seeking access ramps and wide aisles and finding parking spaces that are actually big enough to allow you to free a child from the back seat without clipping the neighbouring vehicle with your open car door… And now I look for cafes that have room enough for prams, and that own a couple of high chairs, and that have adult chairs with backs instead of funky reclaimed produce boxes. Just give me something with some back support, would you? Something remedial. And I need my coffee cup with a handle, thanks.