Tuesday, May 06, 2008


There's this back bathroom in our clinic, away down the end of the long physical therapy/chiropractor hall and around the corner past the tiny excuse of a break room. The advantage of that back bathroom is two-fold: First, it's away from a passing hallway, being at the bendy-end of the passageway, next to the emergency exit door (to be kept locked at all times on pain of hairy-eyeball of our practice director). It's a good place to go for some 'private time' with one's bowels, should the office coffee be a bit too much. It's also something of a game of Russian roulette with the toilet seat, as there's someone in the clinic who likes to anoint it and not dry it off. If you've a brain in your head, you check the seat every time before you place your cheeks upon it. If you've left your brain elsewhere as you nipped down the hall for a quick deposit, then approximately once a month you find your buttocks all wet and saddened as you've once again fallen prey to the scourge of toilet seats. (Fool me once, shame on you; fool me 43,892 times and counting, shame on me.) Actually, I don't think it's urine, I think it's water. God knows why someone would repetitively cover the seat with water and not wipe it off. I know who I suspect but it's not something you can just go up to someone about (especially this Someone) and demand that if they're going to wash the seat that they have the common decency to dry the damned thing off afterward (and while we're on it, why the hell are you washing the toilet seat?????).

Anyway, it's a small price to pay for privacy.

But the second reason to use the far-back bathroom is that a few times a year, there's a show. The bathroom abuts the outside wall of the clinic and about every 3 months during the non-frozen season, these tinytiny ants use the bathroom as their landfill.

It's fascinating.

I was thrilled to find that his week marked their spring return. Usually, their public works are partially hidden by the wastepaper basket in the corner, but this time it's been moved to the space between the sink and the toilet, so you can sit and watch the tinytiny ants tote them barges and lift them bales. Today, they were expelling grains of dirt, each the size of 1/2 their heads (the ants, themselves are about 2 mm long) and and! trying to get these two round white things (?? small donut sprinkles?? Who would eat a donut while using the crapper??) twice the size of their heads out of the bathroom and through the tinytiny crack between the vinyl baseboard and the floor and, presumably to their kitchen so they could dine upon them for dinner (it was past breakfast and lunch). 2-3 ants at a time would try over and over to get the sprinkle-balls through the crack, only to get stymied at the end and have the sprinkle balls shoot out of their grasp and pop back into the bathroom, flying about an inch (a whopping 25mm, such a vast ant-distance, just think) each time.

I have no idea what happened in the end, whether they finally found a wide enough crack or if 1 of the 3 workers said, "Fuck the rest of them, we've been doing all the work and we deserve a little tiny-sprinkle snack right here. Bob, Tina, grab a sprinkle and dig in." In any case, by the end of this afternoon, the ants and the tiny, white sprinkles were no where to be seen. Just small piles of tinytiny dirt grains at each break in the baseboard vinyl.

For some reason, they made me think of the manufacturing plant some of us went out to visit last week. 'Twere clean and well run as a factory goes but I was struck by the mind rotting tedium and the workers who didn't seem to mind their minds being rotted by the tedium. The plant pays well for standing and running a machine 8-12 hours a shift, 5-7 days a week (overtime pays well and most work at least 6 days a week). It was loud in many areas (ear plugs required), so no chatting possible. Many of the machines were fed every 10 minutes to every hour or so, and the rest of the time was spent staring and standing, perhaps tending another machine in the interim. The worst of the jobs (as seemed to me) were the 2 women chasing each other in a 6' (2m) circle as they moved small pieces of metal from station to station, washing and oiling and assembling the small parts for tractors and other heavy machines. Loud, dull, smelling of oil and metal. The lives of the ants seemed more full of interest. And these factory jobs, being both well paying and not requiring an education past high school, are in this town highly sought after and diminishing in number. I don't know what's worse: Having one of these jobs or wanting to have one of these jobs and losing it.

I am so lucky to love what I do and to find it endlessly fascinating.

Anyway, sadly, someone (the cleaning service?) will eventually notice Bob, Tina, Lou and the rest of the ant crew and spray neurotoxins and clean away the tiny grains of debris and all will be back to dull toileting, but until then, I'm only using that loo, wet butt be damned. There's worse jobs than being an ant.

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Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Sounds like the strong office coffee has given you ample time to observe the whole inner and outer workings of the ant society! (Any "Red Hat Lady Ants"??!! Yeah, guess they's be Red Ants!!)

I am lucky also to have had a career where I loved to just be in the school building doing anything. It's social and dymamic..not a dull moment....always in a state of flux. It is stressful but I'd have been fired long ago were I employed in a factory. My mind couldn't stay in focus and I'd be trying to talk too much to other people!

9:32 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Cnn had a story about the tinker...

Every office has one or two.

In my old company there was a sing in each stall door that read "Ladies please remain seated for the entire performance"

At the BF's Brother's old job there as a crude drawing of a stick figure pee'ing on the seat wtih a large X through it.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

I love all the unhealthy toxins that are so liberally sprayed around our Places of Health. Yikes.

You know I feel your pain on the wet toilet seat issue. Hey, but in one case (at the college where I teach), I actually discovered the seat is always wet with actual water, as the flush is so damn powerful. That was a big breakthrough for me.

So I came over here to tell you something: I always enjoy your comments on my posts so much--because I know you have "gotten" things that kind of cracked me up, too...most recently, the No Steppie, Tiffany Zone. I just read your comment and went, "Yea, Diana's my girl."

7:51 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Ruth- Sadly, you are onto me and my, erm, stimulated innards. I shall look for Red Hat ants and shall now go to the loo armed with magnifying glass to check their heads, although I'm guessing the ones I see are more apt to wear hard hats. I am with you. This seemed even worse than those horrible summer jobs in retail and restaurants that always made me long for papers and studying.

Christina- That link was hysterical. My pal, J, who used to be in our clinic and then got moved to another site, along with the Someone, actually filled me in on her suspicions and findings one day over lunch. The anointing mysteriously stopped until Someone returned to our clinic. Can't blog the details (wish I could) but it made all of us at lunch laugh our pop out of our noses. You know, this is my first encounter with an 'anointer', so I must count myself as lucky. I am now thinking of co-opting one of those signs/drawings for the back bathroom, although the Someone probably wouldn't take the messsage. They never do.

Jocelyn- (I am restraining myself with difficulty so as not to go all Sally Fields At The Oscars on you. I lurves you. Muchly. And your blog and your comments and your kids, who I wish were playmates with my kids. I'd not even mind if Paco Dinko left dribbles on the toilet seat.) I sorely wish it were that the toilet were that buff and exuberant, but it barely manages to remove 75% of the poo on a typical flush and the plunger next to it gets used at least a few times a month. Slacker.

8:37 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

I could never work a factory job either. I can (and have) handle long, boring jobs, as long as it isn't too noisy, because of my ability to amuse myself anywhere and everywhere with an overactive imagination. But you have to pay attention at those jobs because there's that whole "Oops, put my hand in the wrong place" factor. No thanks.

The ladies at my work have a tendency to complain not because the toilet is wet but because they are actually being used in the manner in which they were built. I have heard them complain about how the bathroom smells like an outhouse and how could anyone poo at work? I've never understood that attitude.

I hope that the ants manage to escape the cleaning staff.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

I was going to suggest that the water on the seat might be the result of an overzealous flushing mechanism. Guess not, though.


I wonder if those white things really are donut sprinkles. Isn't there some way that you, being a doctor, could get them sent to a lab for analysis?

1:54 AM  
Blogger Dumdad said...

What antics you get up to in the bathroom!

12:31 PM  
Blogger Coffee-Drinking Woman said...

"Who would eat a donut while using the crapper??)"

Are you SURE you want to know the answer to that question? Some things are best left unknown.

I saw that CNN story, too. Nearly sent it to you...

12:32 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Who duh thunk I could find so much to talk about on a bathroom issue but hey, I AM a kindergarten teacher. There are two stalls in the women's restroom at the school where I teach and one in particular has the most astounding whoosh and roar of water, and yes, the backsplash is known to copiously decorate the toilet seat on occasion. The ladies room is definitely a 'talking room' for us female staff. The stalls have big cracks between the swinging doors, eliminating the need to look for feet underneath and while you often would like to pretend you don't know who is on the comode, there are times when it is downright convenient to say "Hey MaryJane, did Serendipity come waltzing into class about half an hour late? Tell her that her sister Little LulaJane
absolutely must hand in the permission slip to the beach by Friday!"
As to those ants, could it be egg sacks and not donut sprinkles at all?

12:41 AM  

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