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‘Tis the season for baseball & bathrooms

April 27, 2012

‘Tis the season when the scent of fresh-cut grass fills your nose, when the sounds of cracking bats and smacking mitts meld with exclamatory “Woo-hoos!” and “Yeahs!”
Its the time when we fill our bellies with overcooked hot dogs and pretzels with underheated cheese. It’s baseball season. As a daughter of — and later a wife of — Cubbies fans I am well used to disappointment and schooled in calmly watching “my” team lose. I still “root, root, root” for my “home team” regardless.
Growing up my father played softball for his company’s team and when I was young, also coached little league softball. At first I was a mascot for the local Pat’s Pub Angels and later a proud outfielder.
If it weren’t for softball, it might have been years before my parents realized I was nearsighted. A couple pop flies caught in the mug instead of the extended mitt thankfully (albeit painfully) brought to attention my need for glasses. The glasses in turn, helped considerably with my batting stats.
By the time I reached puberty, I was done with softball other than as a family spectator, and on to other things like cheerleading and boys.
My father continued on with the sport until his body told him he was done and shortly thereafter (and after years of “scoping” the fields from the bleachers for potential dates) I married another player. Ironically we didn’t meet at or near a ballpark.
Of course, in turn, we created a baseball player, so the brief period of no longer experiencing “bleacher butt” (which leads to “bleacher back” as one ages) became only a fantasy. I was blessed that my husband trimmed his seasonal schedule from playing three teams to only one each week right before my son began tee-ball. Otherwise by backside might have become flattened irreparably and my back strapped in a brace for the remainder of my period on this earth.
That blessing, in conjunction with the invention of the stadium seat made one of my favorite ways to spend a warm summer evening even more enjoyable.
What the season also means is that I will: for the thousandth time, think someone paid off the umpire; for the hundredth time wish the coach (whichever team) knew what he was doing; for the billionth time, hold my breath as my son slides into base; and for the infinite time, visit a baseball park restroom.
Ironically, at my son’s school, the varsity field’s facilities lack considerably in comparison to every other school and park we’ve attended in the past 20+ years.
In fact, it doesn’t even compare to the local little league park because it only — and rarely — offers a single port-a-john.
Usually my biggest complaint is tissue-paper-thin toilet tissue, broken locks, long lines, or no soap or paper towels. Often my grievance involves faulty plumbing or inconsiderate non-flushers.
But I’ve noticed something that normally I wouldn’t even encounter — ill-constructed bathroom stalls for the handicapped. Yes, I am one of those that will use a stall designed for a disabled person but only if there is no visibly-disabled or possibly-disabled person in line behind me. It took me years to overcome as I abhor people that park in handicapped spaces.
It was motherhood that “cured” me of the social phobia, because as all good mothers know: you can’t leave your toddler to wander the bathroom or the ballpark on his or her own. You have to trap them in the stall with you (and hope they can’t unlatch the door) and the normally-sized stalls are barely large enough for a person heavier than 100 pounds and five feet tall to maneuver around in — let alone a baby stroller or a small child hopped up on Skittles.
Often, bathroom designers put the baby-changing table in the handicapped stall for just that foreseeable challenge. From this outlook, I realized another epiphany: it is not a stall exclusively for the handicapped as the wheelchair sign on the door implies, but a stall that is specifically made as being accessible to the handicapped — and also for the bathroom-challenged. Bathroom-challenged can mean a person, like I said, adorned with a child; or a person weighing more than 200 pounds that can’t even pass through the opening to close the stall from the inside (and the pregnant who struggle with the door-passing as well); people with a number of shopping bags or items that can’t be left outside the stall or hung inside from the hook; a person that has to use the stall as a changing room; and those that are challenged with the fact their bodies simply cannot contain their contents.
Because of using them, I found a handicapped stall in Warsaw (I will refrain from saying where) that was apparently designed by, rather than for, a visually-impaired person.
One day, when I simply HAD to use THAT stall rather than any of the others, I noticed (while perched) that I could not reach the paper. Now, by my calculations, if I were without the basic use of my legs, I would have to move my bum from the stool, to my wheelchair and then to the paper roll to grab some, and then reverse the process, or would have to remember to snatch a handful before I took my seat on the “throne.”
Hmm. Not very handicapped-friendly. Not being handicapped, I managed of course, by shimmying over to get what I needed, but business done, I stood staring at the obvious conundrum. How could this be overlooked during the designing of the stall?
I pulled my horrified mother-in-law inside and demonstrated (mock — not literally) how the positing of the roll was a problem, to which she shook her head and laughed — not only for my acting, but because of the realization of the goof.
Since then, my ballpark bathroom experiences have also unveiled several other stalls with the same problem and even others that are so narrow width-wise, once you get inside, if you were using a wheelchair, you would have to be able to do a 90-degree turn on a dime in a two-and-a-half foot-wide space, and then somehow shut the door from the inside (which you would then be in the way of). If you immediately turned once inside, and then rolled forward toward the stool to be out of the way of the door, you would then have to reach behind you and somehow stretch your arm about a foot-and-a-half to reach the door to close.
Maybe the stalls were designed by some of those umpires...

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