Once upon a time, Mummy walked up stairs…

July 17, 2011 at 2:50 am (Uncategorized)

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.


  1. Lilian Nattel said,

    I remember those days. There was one time (with my first d) I was taking the subway and had planned the trip around which stations had elevators (lifts to you). Except that one was broken. It was a wet day and the stairs were slippery. I couldn’t carry my toddler and the stroller both. I couldn’t carry my toddler down and come get the stroller because that would mean leaving her at the bottom. I just stood there helplessly until some nice young woman offered to help. I wondered then what someone in a wheelchair would have done with a broken elevator.

    • doctordi said,

      Absolutely, Lilian – I have a new level of (already hefty) respect for the wheelchair bound and their relative mobility. I think about the privilege of being able-bodied quite a lot, not morbidly but gratefully, and even just skimming the surface of these access issues has been a very blunt education.

  2. Charlotte said,

    Di, you bring it all home, how one outing with one smallish baby becomes a military operation. It sounds like you’ve got it down now, but I do remember the early days being absolutely terrifying and how it was just so much easier to stay at home.

    • doctordi said,

      Charlotte, I can really see how that happens to people. Particularly when Master J spurned the pram and the car. That was tough. But we’re past that now and if anything, his cabin fever at home is even worse than mine. He wants out. Weeks like this, of incessant rain, drive us both bananas, so I’ve been taking him out regardless. The rain cover on his pram gets a rousing thumbs up.

  3. David said,

    OKOKOK I am now so grossed out by the Turdzilla story that I am resolved never again to use any public restroom.

    I can’t imagine how anyone does the whole baby-wrangling thing, esp. in cities like New York…it kind of makes a person understand why some mothers just stayed home all the time, back in the good old/bad old days. Soldier on, brave one.

    • doctordi said,

      David, I was wincing writing this post thinking of your reading it – sorry old chap, I knew it would blow your gross-out-meter sky high. It was just beyond revolting, I can’t tell you.

      Oh yeah – NYC would be interesting! Sydney is very hilly, which can be tough going… and roads are moronically narrow, like they thought maybe a couple of hundred people might live here one day.

  4. litlove said,

    Oh god, lifts. I don’t much like lifts, being a claustrophobic sort, but there’s no option when you have a pram. I can recall cramming myself in to the ones that are really too small for modern bulky prams, along with several other people who weren’t about to wait for the next and who would rudely push past and out without bothering to help me hump the pram over the metal frames of the door. I do remember, after reading your evocative post, what a JUNGLE it is out there on the street, something I never felt before motherhood and don’t have to feel now. I send hugs.

    • doctordi said,

      Litlove, that is so true – I have been astonished by some of the behaviour. Some people are breathtakingly rude, and I’m always fascinated to see who does and doesn’t jump to lend a hand when I am quite obviously struggling up or down stairs. Seriously eye-opening.

  5. Grad said,

    You have hit a deep psychological nerve for me. My worst recurring dream is being in a public building with load of bathrooms and rows and rows of stalls. As I desperately search for a place to – well, go – all the toilets are full to the brim with awful messes and I…just…can’t…find…a…clean…toilet. I am afraid to find out what the dream means, but I haven’t had it for a while. This post will probably resurrect it – oh groan. Although Litlove said it’s a jungle out there, I think the jungle is probably a lot safer – and cleaner. At the very least, its biodegradable.

    • doctordi said,

      Oh no!!!! Sorry, Graddikins!! Sincere apologies – I hope you are still sleeping soundly and this hasn’t brought anything foul, um, floating to the surface…

  6. Pete said,

    The trials and joys of motherhood. Men like that make me really angry. And I can relate the lift story. I never take them (unless I have to). And now we do – all the time. But I loved the image of Master J rolling around and eating grass. Baby F did roll on her own but now she’s forgotten how to. So she just lies there on her tummy-time mat and stuffs her paws into her mouth. Aw. Anyway. Yay for David Jones and other child-friendly places.

    • doctordi said,

      Yeah, it was a pretty selfish move, all things considered. Pig.

      I find lifts infuriating most of the time, so I really try and keep our usage to a minimum. I quite like goods elevators, though… I had to use the goods lift when I took Master J to the MCA, and that was quite cool in a behind-the-scenes kind of way…

      Oh, cuteness! Baby F may remember, or she may be done with that now. Master J struggled to repeat his initial roll for about two weeks, I think, whereas one baby girl in my MG did it all day for a single day and then never ever again. Others skipped it completely and went straight to sitting. Baby F will blaze her own unique, adorable trail. Give her a schmackeroo from me, please!

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