We just got back from a road trip. I really enjoy road trips because there is so much time to relax, talk, listen to interesting music or audiobooks, and, at least in my case, sleep. Xander is very nice about letting me sleep whenever I need to. By the time we go on a road trip, it has generally been so long since the last vacation that I am rather exhausted. Knowing that I will be able to doze in the car is comforting.
I will write about the good parts of the road trip later, but today I have a different subject in mind. Road trips do come with their own challenges, and one that I dread is the assignment of hover factor. If the drive is one we’ve taken before, I know where we can stop to avoid a high hover factor. This time we were driving a route with which we were not completely familiar, so there were a couple of very disturbing restrooms.
Hover factor is a measurement of how awful the bathrooms are, specifically how little I am willing to touch anything. If I look at the toilet and I am unwilling to touch any part of it with any part of me, that’s a high hover factor. If I walk in and my feet stick to the floor, even a little bit, the hover factor measurement ratchets up. If I have to look in more than one stall to find one without strange substances on the walls, that’s a very high hover factor. There have been a few times in my life that I’ve elected to drive an extra several miles to get to a place that doesn’t make me gag as I walk through the door.
I am not very picky. I do not require extreme cleanliness in gas station bathrooms, and I certainly do not expect it. I do, however, much prefer bathrooms which do not induce nausea or an urge to cover every possible surface I might touch with toilet paper and paper towels, several layers thick.
One bathroom from the most recent trip was actually quite nice. It was a restaurant (and before you say that restaurants generally have nicer bathrooms, be aware that I have been in a few restaurant bathrooms that made me decide not to eat at the establishment) and, when I walked into the bathroom, I was greeted with a faint scent of bleach. The floors were pristine, every stall had toilet paper, and I did not worry about touching the faucet handles.
I’m sounding rather neurotic, I know. All of this stems, I think, from port-a-potties when I was little. We would go to various events and I would have a very hard time dealing with the smell, the flies, the heat, and the splashes where other people either didn’t aim very well or were, um, overenthusiastic. One that I remember with particular horror had a handprint on the wall. I do not know what substance was used to make the handprint, but considering the color and the surroundings, I can make a pretty good guess. I can go into a port-a-potty if I need to, and I can use it, but that is where the hover factor measurement began.
When we are driving to Arizona, we almost always stop at the Death Valley Nut and Candy Company. We get gas, since that particular drive does not have many options for gas, and I use the bathroom there because they have a very low hover factor. I can walk in, do what I need to do, wash my hands, and walk out without even once being tempted to check the bottom of my shoe to see what foreign substance may have become attached.
If you are ever in a position in which you own a place with bathrooms, be aware that you will be judged on those bathrooms, and, if the quality is lacking, if the hover factor is too high, you will lose customers. There are a few places I absolutely will not stop for gas even if I don’t need a bathroom because my memory of the desperate wish to be able to avoid touching anything at all is so incredibly strong.