Sunday, February 13, 2022

Potty Time: Trump's Toiletgate Tale and the Travails of Shared Facilities

Despite his denials, there can be little doubt in any reasonably open mind that Donald Trump tried to flush his improprieties down a White House toilet. That’s the conclusion any sane observer would reach to the revelation that White House personnel found presidential papers clogging the drain (

Exactly which papers has not been revealed, but given Trump’s longstanding, er, make that longsitting, propensity to dispose of papers by ripping them up after he has used, er, read, them, it might be presumed the flushed material probably reflected poorly on his performance as president.

Flushgate, or Toiletgate, is but another example of Trump’s personal imprint on presidential behavior. Not that other presidents didn’t have their own bathroom peccadillos. Lyndon Baines Johnson was said to confer with aides while he sat on the potty with the bathroom door open.

Trump never admits to an impropriety even after numerous insiders have spilled the beans on his outlandish habits, so his denial is rather hollow.

It’s doubtful Trump will face any criminal charges for violating the The Presidential Records Act, which was enacted to make sure all presidential communications, even unflattering ones, are saved for the benefit of history. Even more doubtful any of his supporters will find anything revolting in his actions.

Another Toilet Story: The New York Times finally got around to printing an article February 6 originally disseminated on its web site January 27. The online article, “Do I really Need a Toilet?,” centered on Stephen Ruddy’s apartment hunting dilemma. 

He found “an amazing (two-bedroom) apartment on Carmine Street” in Greenwich Village for a reasonable $1,995 a month. As The Times’ print headline noted, “Why’s the Rent So Low? There’s a Seat Missing.” 

The “seat” in question was a toilet seat. Anyone leasing the apartment would use a toilet in the hallway, a toilet shared by other renters on the floor (

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer was so fascinated by Ruddy’s experience he included a 12-minute segment on his daily  public radio call-in show dealing with the compromises renters face when choosing an otherwise ideal apartment (

I didn’t call in, but I, too, had to choose whether to rent a hallway-only bathroom during my 10 months in Syracuse while pursuing my master’s degree. 

My story didn’t start out that way. In August I had rented a fully-furnished apartment with bathroom a few miles from campus. When I returned a few weeks later, days before classes were to begin, I was surprised to find the landlord had rented it out to someone else. 

I was desperate to find new lodging. I found a third floor studio in an old Victorian house a few blocks from the university. The only drawback—I would have to share a bathroom with another tenant.

Now, I’ve shared bathrooms before. For the first 21 years of my life I shared a bathroom with anywhere from three to four family members. And, eight weeks for each of 15 summers at sleepaway camp, anywhere from eight to 16 bunkmates shared facilities. I stayed in some youth hostels and pensiones with common bathrooms while traveling abroad. 

But I never endured a one-to-one arrangement with a total stranger. 

My toilet-mate remained a stranger throughout my lease. I can recall meeting him just once, perhaps the first day I moved in. We didn’t discuss who would clean the bathroom. I never did. I suspect he didn’t either. I’m squirming just recalling how disgusting it must have become.

Entry to the bathroom was from two doors, his leading into his studio, mine from the hallway. Each door had an inside lock. I remember only one time being denied entry because he forgot to release the lock on the hallway door. I knocked on his apartment door. No answer. 

I could wait until he returned home or seek relief elsewhere. I chose the latter.