Sunday, April 13, 2008

When you gotta go, you gotta go!

Next to eating, drinking and sleeping, going to the restroom is something that we all do frequently. Most of the time, we tend to forget that the design of a restroom, especially public bathrooms, have an impact on the individual and on society as a whole.

I remember when my son was a little boy he asked me once, "Mom, how come women go to the bathroom in public places in groups?" I didn't really know what to answer, I suppose I could have said "to gossip, or for company, or just cause?", but instead I said "It's because in women's public restrooms you have to insert a coin on the toilet door for it to open, and that way one person puts a coin, goes in, then when she comes out she holds the door open for the next one to go, in case they really have to go and they don't have enough coins." "Really?" he asked surprised..."I want to see, can I put the coin in the door?", so of course I had to tell him it was just a joke ....though recently the joke was on me!

But first I must tell you how I feel about public restrooms...

For men it seems easier, all they really have to do is stand there, they don't even seem to mind standing next to each other , but it's not the same for women, most women would be mortified if they had to do that. For one women take a lot longer, so you often find lines and you have to stand there waiting your turn, sometimes you strike up silly conversations, and others you just look around, and if you really gotta go, you don't even want to strike up a conversation.

Finally it's your turn, the door usually opens inwards to avoid hitting anyone when you come out, and the place inside is barely large enough to let you get in and close, and when women go in public restrooms some do it kind of squatting and they splash the seat, the floor and the front of the toilet, so when you are trying to close the door you have to be careful not to rub the front of the toilet with your pants or legs, and if you are wearing pants, you have to roll them up so they don't touch the floor and get wet. Then you flush and sometimes it won't work, and there's other times when you can't find one that is clean because they won't flush...

And what about when there is no toilet paper and you didn't notice when you first went in because you had to go so badly, or when they put these paper holders that don't go around because of their odd shape, and the paper is so tight that you try to pull on it and it tears after just one little square, and here you are trying to tear one square at a time, while holding your purse because the hook where you hang it is missing!! And there is even the one I call sand 'toilet' paper, you're better off using the seat covers (if there are any). I've actually been to some that have plastic covers on the seat that go around when you press a button, I always make sure to press the button before and after, just in case the lady that was there before me didn't think to do that before she left.

You've seen those Port-O-Pottys. Even those come in different categories, some of the fancy ones have their own water and septic tanks, they have sinks, are nicely decorated, and they even have piped in music, while some are just plastic boxes with a hole and this awful blue chemical. It was better when I used to go on long camping trips as a little girl and we would go deep into the woods, at least you would find a clean spot and were not afraid you would fall into that stinky discusting hole, although you did have to worry about critters :o)

Then there are the very elegant restrooms, you will find those in fancy resorts or expensive restaurants. I remember taking my kids to the beach in La Jolla for years, and every time they needed to go we would walk up a steep hill and into this lovely hotel overlooking the ocean, just to go into their beautiful restrooms.

There are some that are unique works of art, some that pop up off the ground when they are needed, and go underground when they're not being used. Others in the shape of soccer balls, I've seen one that is located in the middle of the street made of glass, when you are inside you can see out, but people can't see in, that's a bit intimidating if you ask me, but I still went in. I was pretty impressed with the ones that are self-cleaning. Somehow they know when you get out and they start a cycle much like going into a carwash. It gets fully sanitized and dried for the next person that needs to use it.

Some of them you wish you could stick them in your purse and take them home with you because they were much nicer than your bathrooms at home. And the ones where there are attendants handing you paper towels to dry your hands, and they have anything from hand cream, and mouthwash, to perfume, combs and hairspary, and of course there is a little plate filled with money, so that it is clear they want you to leave them a tip, but now a days with ATM cards, I often forget to carry cash in my purse. It makes me feel like walking out with my hands wet just not to go through the embarassment of taking the paper towel from her and not leaving anything in return.

Ok you're finally done, your belly doesn't hurt anymore, but wait, you have to wash you hands, look at all you had to touch to get to that point, I'm not going out without washing my hands, and I better be sure to check I'm not dragging any toilet paper on my shoe, or have my skirt stuck up my underwear before I walk out of there... now that would be embarassing....

Of course I have my purse with me, but when other women who came in before me washed their hands, did they wipe the counter so that my purse would not get wet? Of course not, I always do!! so you either keep it on your shoulder trying to make sure it doesn't keep sliding forward, or hold it in between your legs, or go find something to wipe the counter with....
I remember a restroom in a restaurant in Mexico City, where they had a small statue of Michaelangelo's David next to the sinks. It had a metal leaf covering his private area and a sign that said "Lift at your own risk." Of course as you can imagine every woman that went into that restroom, at least for the first time, would lift the leaf. It would appear that nothing happened when you did that, however, once you got our of the restroom you'd discover that a loud bell would ring inside the restaurant, and everyone would clap when they saw you coming out. I think that was more embarassing than walking out dragging toilet paper that got stuck on your shoe.

Last time I was in Europe, guess what happened? Yup you guessed it!!!! In many places in Europe you DO need coins to get into public restrooms...I've had to pay 2 and 3 Euros just to pee at the Mall...that's between $3 and $5 American dollars... It's not like I'm cheap, but I remember what I told my son way back then, and it turned out the joke was on me :o).

We'll I'm about to go to a Movie.... I think I better go pee before I leave the house!

Hugs xoxo

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