I thought I was discreet with my two super small cloth bags of gear strolling to the cavernous handicap bathroom on the floor. This set up felt so stealth that it could pass as an oversized makeup case. Makeup application is such a priority in Japan that there are built-in cabinets found at the entry to the women’s bathroom. Imagine, dedicated makeup storage but not a scratch of lactation support dually noted. It was as though the architectural priorities of the space itself were judging me for my decision to go back to work.
Using bathrooms to pump is the last place I will choose. At work, I prefer broom closets and meeting rooms. Here in this new glossy corporate headquarters, I couldn’t connect to the meeting room network and the company had invested in too few meeting rooms anyway. Snagging a meeting room was a competitive endeavor and required some advanced planning. Not every floor had a broom closet. The rest of the interior space was semi-open space. I thought about the break rooms, the trash rooms (also dedicated areas in Japan), and the odd-ball hallway appendices. But any of these might present a random encounter with a fellow employee. Given the cultural priority for makeup, I struggled even to imagine the discomfort of someone happening upon a woman who had a machine groaning under her nursing cover. On this floor, the forced choice was the largest stall.
I tried to gracefully slip out of my meeting room with my oversized vanity-like cases gesturing to my co-workers that I’d be off and back in a mere moment. When I got situated, I realized that the quiet ambiance of a corporate bathroom in Japan was a little too tranquil for the pump. Even tucked away to the far corner of an accessible stall a full three feet from the toilet. In a moment of overly creative thinking, I remembered that bathrooms in Japan are all equipped with white noise. How convenient! I could play toilet noise while pumping and nobody would be the wiser. Given the below choices, which would make you assume it generates white noise? I went with a happy green cord.
Incidentally, this called security. Yep, that happy green chord means I have fallen, and I need help to get up. A rap on the door came a few minutes later and was super persistent. I only opened it when I heard the English word “security!” Oh boy, maybe I’m not allowed to pump at corporate HQ. The female security guard was helpful and apologetic; in fact, she was not taken aback at all by my pumping situation. She just wanted to make sure there was no actual emergency. Instead, I tried a different white noise idea, the baby monitor app on my phone.
As soon as I settled down enough to let down again the lights went off. The stall has a motion sensor to save electricity, leaving me stunned for a second in pitch black punctuating the message of the corporate architecture.