If you’re a writer, and if you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time in coffee shops. There are few places a writer—especially one with a family—can find a good place to settle in for long chunks of time without being hassled to make purchases or give up his table or otherwise conform to the needs of others. Hell, if we wanted to conform to the needs of others, we’d work at home.
Some coffee shops are quite large. Others are quite small. Some are part of a huge national chain, and others are simple mom-and-pop operations with an eclectic collection of mugs and chairs. Some offer free wifi, and others let writers and other creatives thrive without the threat of Facebook. But there is one thing that all coffee shops must have in common, and that is coffee, which has many great powers. And if I’ve learned one thing as a writer, after spending countless hours in coffee shops and dropping countless nickels and dimes in change pitchers and drinking countless cups of coffee—regular and decaf—and eating countless scones and blueberry muffins and yogurt parfaits and slices of quiche and wraps from a cooler, that one thing is this: eventually, you’re going to have to poop at a coffee shop.
How do we handle this? Here are some tips:
Try not to go at peak hours. After a couple of days at your favorite haunt, you’ll notice waves of customers, typically only three times a day. People tend to line up on the way to work, during lunch, and then after work. If you can time your poop to about 10:30 am or about 3 pm, that’s your best bet to keep coffee shop crowds to a minimum.
If the bathroom has a fan, turn it on and leave it on. No one wants to know you’ve been in there doing your nasty business, so let’s get that odor out of the room as quickly as possible. If the coffee shop has had the foresight to supply a can of deodorizer spray, use it, and if there’s a plug-in deodorizer, many brands have a little dial; turn it up.
Clean it. This is for your own good, so by all means ignore this tip. But I like to keep a collection of cleaning supplies in my laptop bag. I get in there with the rubber gloves and scrub that seat till it’s clean enough to eat off of. If I’m not sure, I try eating a sandwich off it. If it works, then it’s clean enough, and your butt will thank you when it doesn’t develop patches of impetigo.
Clean it again. Have you made a real mess in there, you disgusting wretch? Don’t just wash up and walk out. Clean that thing again. The next person probably doesn’t have the necessary supplies.
Wash up. I’ll never forget the man who used to use the same public bathroom I frequented. This was many years ago in New York, mind you. It went like this, and it happened more than once. He’d visit the urinal, do his thing, and then adjourn. I know lots of guys—and ladies, I expect—don’t always wash after a pee, but the thing with this guy is he would stop for a paper towel to dry his hands, even though he hadn’t visited the sink. So what is on his hands making them wet? Peepee, that’s what, and that’s gross.
Go straight to the counter. This is your last chance to cover your poopy tracks. If you go back to your table empty-handed now, table neighbors will know you’ve been gone for a little while, but haven’t gotten a refill or a snack. They’ll put two and two together and know you’ve been pooping. If you can handle that kind of attention, be my guest. But if you’d rather keep your cover, grab another cookie on the way back. You might even mumble something like, “Wow, long line at the counter right now.”
The most important piece of advice I can give you is this: everybody does it. Sure, most people have the sense to do it before they leave the house because their parents raised them right. But still. It happens. So get in there and poop with gusto. But not too loud, because no one wants to hear that.