Going against nature to track down the best bathroom

By KARRIE McALLISTER Columnist Published:

Ask most people if they are right- or left-handed and they'll answer in a heartbeat. Ask about their eye dominance, and marksmen will respond quickly. Ask about their feet and most will stare blankly at you. Continue reading this potentially important information, and you'll never walk into a public restroom the same way again.

I have been lucky enough to take a few mini courses in tracking. I can identify a cat from a dog from a coyote, and on a good day, can tell you if the deer that walked through the mud was a male or female. Animal tracking gives you a strong connection to the natural world. You begin to walk with the animal, feel its thirst and quest for water, its attempt to eat or consequence of being eaten. A good tracker will look at tracks and be able to piece together an entire story about that animal, because animals follow patterns and instincts.

We have to remember, though, that when it comes down to it, we are animals, too. And just like the critters of the wild, we follow patterns and instincts. Once we figure out how to use our feet and legs, we follow them where they take us. Obviously our brains tell us where to go, but our bodies tend to tweak the way we do it. Consider the way you reach for a cup of coffee or a toothbrush. Which hand do you use? If someone is whispering to you, don't you lean in with a certain ear? Sidedness happens all over our bodies, not just in which hand we use to sign our names.

Unbeknownst to most people, our feet and legs have a dominance almost as important as our hands. Soccer players and skate or snowboarders might be more familiar with this concept, but think of which foot you use to walk up the first stair? Or with which foot you might smash a man-eating spider? Chances are it's all the same side. Which leads me straight (or semi-straight?) to the bathroom.

According to my tracking instructor, humans' right- or left-foot dominance will make both conscious and subconscious decisions in their lives. For example, if a person wanders off into a field or the woods, the dominant foot will tend to pull the person in that direction. (We actually tested this, blindfolded in a field. If I'm ever lost, please check to the right.)

About 81 percent of us out there are right-footed, which means that when given the opportunity, 81 percent of our bodies will generally take us to the right. That's a lot of people going to the right. Which is why we are finally, yes, finally, getting to the bathroom.

Upon entering a public restroom with stalls lining both sides, we as humans are forced to choose. Granted, we all look for potties with a supply of toilet paper, clean seats, and clear water, but still, what if they were all like that?

Tracking science shows us that 81 percent of us will tend go to the right, and one might argue the toilets on the left are only used 19 percent of the time, therefore making them just the slightest bit cleaner or at least less used. And I don't know about all of you, but I'm pretty sure I'd rather go into a stall that has had fewer visitors than the ones on the other side of the hallway. It's a fight against the instinct in my feet, but that's the bonus of being human -- my brain reminding me that there's a whole lot more people using the toilets on the other side.

Now think of which hand you use to flush.

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