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Matt Von Pinnon, Published June 16 2012

Von Pinnon: Auto-flush loo tests a dad’s patience for potty training

As the father of a 2-year-old girl, I disdain automatic-flushing toilets.

They are Enemy No. 1 for anyone who’s trying to successfully potty train a tiny person.

They often flush at all the wrong times and, from my unscientific research, tend to be louder and use more water than conventional-flushing loos.

Unfortunately, they can’t always be avoided.

The other day, while at West Acres mall with my youngest girl, it was time for her to visit the toilet.

She’s at the point in her potty training where she wears big-girl underwear and – provided we get her to the toilet every hour or so – doesn’t normally have an accident.

That said, we’re not so confident in this that we have abandoned carrying a backup change of clothes.

But this day she was with her dad, and Dad often doesn’t follow the same precautionary measures as her mom.

So here we are, between finding a toilet pronto and a sure-bet mess for Dad.

We race to the mall’s public men’s room, bypassing the family bathrooms that no self-respecting man sets foot in unless he’s with his wife and child.

We find an open stall, shut the door and, just as I’m hoisting her on the seat … Whooooooooooooooooooooosssssssssssssshhhhhhh!

The noise was as if we were strapped atop a DC-9 engine on takeoff, except that water was also spouting out, sprinkling us with overspray.

She screamed, held her ears and began crying.

Then, just as I was beginning to comfort her … Whooooooooooooooooooooosssssssssssssshhhhhhh!

That same scenario played out a few times, only with more frequency as the motion sensors on the toilet responded to her increased flailing.

I held her for a few moments just to stop the cycle of flushing.

And then I made a fateful mistake:

Determined to have her go, I slowly lowered her toward the toilet. I figured if I could get her on the seat without the damn thing flushing, she might actually go and this nightmare would be over.

But just as her butt touched the seat …


Her body stiffened like a board horizontally across the toilet seat. Water droplets hit her backside. She shrieked. She was shaking and breathless she was so scared.

We had to get out of there.

With her arms clinging to my neck and her pants still around her ankles, I flung open the stall door only to be greeted by the stares of several men, some smiling, some with concerned looks on their faces.

“We’re fine!” I exclaimed.

And just as I was leaving the men’s room, an older gentleman with gray hair smiled and said to me:

“I remember those days.”

Embarrassed, I smiled back and nodded, but part of me wanted to tell him:

“No! No, you don’t! They didn’t have automatic-flushing toilets when you had kids! You don’t know how good you had it!”

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701)241-5579.