Informant: “People that don’t wear their shoes, and only socks or barefoot into the bathrooms, the lavatories, we call them soakers…cause they soak up all the shit that’s on the floor.”
My informant is a flight attendant. He has worked in the industry for since his early 20’s, and learned this term from other flight attendants upon entering the industry. In private, they would call a customer they noticed entering a bathroom without shoes or socks a “soaker. My informant has seen “soakers” on many flights, and regards it as an especially disgusting phenomenon because, as he put it:
“People, you know, people just can’t see. So they’re walking on everyone’s splatter or whatever…You get turbulence, when they’re in there, you’ve got shit, you know, splattering!…Now let alone just the people that are physically ill.”
My informant laments the size of airplane lavatories as it forces passengers, both men and women, to as he put it, “splatter” all over the floor. And according to him, the “soakers” only make it worse, because they take that “splatter” and drag it all around the cabin. This folk term speaks to his, and other flight attendants’ larger frustration with the inconsiderate and unhygienic behaviors that so many passengers adopt on planes. It also speaks to their frustration with the airline companies for making bathrooms so small as to almost guarantee uncleanliness.
I think my informant marvels at soakers because they are foreign and exotic to him, as he himself is such a dignified and well-put-together person. I also think this phenomenon is a great example of how frighteningly comfortable we have gotten on airplanes. People all around the world are so used to flying that they feel at home enough to take off their shoes and socks, without even thinking about the hygienic implication.