Library Moments: “Can you flush the toilet?”

Yesterday, I got to work ready for my shift at the ref desk. I had not made it three paces into the library, headed in the direction of the ref desk, when a patron stopped me. “Do you work here?” he said. “Yes,” I replied. “I need help with the toilet,” he said. I followed him to the restroom in the children’s wing of the library. He explained that his son had used the toilet and neither he nor his son knew how to flush the toilet. “Is there a button somewhere? I can’t figure it out.” I knew exactly what he meant, why he was struggling with flushing the toilet. I knew immediately that he was probably an immigrant, someone from another part of the world where toilets work differently. I knew this because I come from another country and it took me years and years–decades almost–to figure out how some public toilets work. Some public toilets flush themselves. Which always scares me. Some toilets look like they will flush themselves but they don’t. So you might wait and wait but no flush–no flush! Then you have to figure out what you do to make it flush, since it happens to not be a self-flushing toilet. All of this to say, I could understand why a patron might not know how to flush the toilet. I could empathize, 100%. I leaned over the toilet, trying not to stare at the brown stuff in the bowl, and I pushed a little black button on the wall. The man looked relieved and said “thank you very much.” I smiled and said “You’re welcome.” I then made my way to the ref desk. All in a days work, I suppose. I really am learning to be ready for anything at work. And let’s face it, in this crazy world, there are scarier things than toilets with myserious little black buttons or panels and sensors behind them. 🙂

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