Lessons from Construction

When we talked about tearing down our house, living as nomads for a year, taking on prodigious amounts of debt, and building a new home together from the ground up, I figured at the very least we’d learn a lot of things about each other and ourselves. I banked on discovering some lofty truths about myself. I figured we’d grow as a couple.

A well-protected tree, half a front wall, a dumpster and no bathroom.

What’s grown is my knowledge of public restrooms in the greater Georgetown area. Need to use the bathroom but don’t want to buy a drink or a cup of coffee? I’m your girl.

The WaWa on Wisconsin Avenue has a pretty clean bathroom, and their code never changes. The issue is that I can’t usually walk into a WaWa without buying a soda and lusting over the CowTails. Even worse if it’s lunchtime. WaWa makes a mean sandwich. And when something costs less than $5, I often forget it’s still real money — $4.37 or not. All that to say, generally speaking if there’s a code on the door I probably won’t like the bathroom. Codes never equate to quality or cleanliness, and they certainly don’t make you feel welcome.

Christophe Boulangerie’s bathroom is smack dab next to the register, so you can’t sneak in without being observed. Despite that, the staff there is so wonderfully French that they really don’t care what you do, so long as you do so with confidence and a little flair. If I have Cappie with me, we’ll go out of our way to go into Christophe because they’re all so excited to see le petit chien blonde. Plus, the bathroom is a single stall, so nobody makes weird harrumphs or mutters when they see Cappie’s four legs sticking out beneath a stall door. Six legs per stall surprises people.

The Jaco Taco bathroom is tucked inside the entrance, and if it’s busy you can duck in and duck out without having to interact with anyone. But since it’s almost always busy and there’s only one stall, it means you’ll almost definitely have someone knock on the door – even if you’re using the bathroom faster than Clark Kent changes outfits. But they’re also usually pretty chill about Cappie’s presence, and drinking a pressed juice makes me feel virtuous so it’s a pretty reliable visit for me.

The Ace Hardware is, hands down, my favorite place to use the bathroom. Cappie’s too. Each time you walk inside, you’re greeted with a warm hello – even if it’s the fourth visit of the day. The bathroom is in Aisle 27 and it’s impeccably clean, always. I admit I’ve yet to walk into the Ace to use the bathroom without actually needing to buy something, but based on the vibe there I think it would be just fine to do so.

This is a solid pro-tip anywhere in the world: Small hardware stores have pretty good bathrooms. The big box stores like Home Depot also have bathrooms, but they’re tucked into the far back corner of the store so between finding a spot in the parking lot and walking through the city-block-sized warehouse, using one is a real ordeal. And without fail someone gasps when they see six legs in a stall when you’re at a Lowe’s or Home Depot or the like.

Bathrooms at CVS are usable only in emergency. They put them back in the employee area, and most employees treat you like you’re casing the joint while planning a pharmacy break-in if you ask where the restroom is. Plus, they’re almost never clean. I find that’s true both up and down the Wisconsin Avenue corridor and across the country.

CVS: Great for Cappie, terrible for Alicia

I know this knowledge won’t take me far. But at least three months int the project I know that I can go far, without having to go.


Alicia Amling View All →

Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.

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