During this year’s Masters golf tournament, the author, Scott Feschuk, witnessed “a massive line-up outside of a restroom…that was not for women. It was a men’s restroom. FOR MEN”. But while there are often short line-ups at sports events and stadiums, the organizers had given thought to how traumatic a large line-up could be to these guys, so they came up with a plan to keep the line moving. First, they used ropes to keep the line orderly. Second, a friendly greeter (personally I’d find mindless chit-chat too great a distraction at this crucial point in the line-up, that being the head of the line). Third, “urinal scouts” – gentlemen, like parking attendants, who let you know where to go by shouting, gesturing, or simply leading you to the next available location. Some even bantered to keep the “mood” light inside the washroom.
This is a great idea! If there were “scouts” in ladies’ rooms, the trip to the loo at the service centres (especially on holidays) would be so much more relaxing. It would reduce the number of “cuts” in the lines, the tying up of the sinks to “fix” your make-up in the mirror (you’re at a service centre on the highway…how good do you need to look in the car??), and the “potty dance” of little kids and grannies patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for their turn. Without the line-up, I can be in and out of a bathroom, including washing my hands (with soap) in minutes, and have never understood the lengthy stay of some patrons in a room with hideous lighting, and let’s face it, antiseptic smells (if we’re lucky). Personally, I think this plan was a master stroke of pure genius.
But it could be worse. Have you heard of the “Right to pee” petition? Women in Mumbai can own property and vote. They make up half the city’s civic authority, a collection of elected and unelected officials. But women can’t pee for free in public toilets. A 2009 study by the Centre for Civil Society found that Mumbai had only 132 public toilets designated for women – several of which require repair, while there are 1,534 toilets designated for men. Women often carry a bag, knows as the “flying toilet”.
I’ve only had to “pay to pee” twice in my life – once near the Coliseum in Rome (and it was an actual bathroom, and not just the rumoured hole in the ground), and once at Versailles (I think it was 5 francs; I kept the receipt). I disagree with people using the bathroom in a restaurant, even if it’s fast food, and not patronising the business. Owners incur costs for water and t.p. so the least I can do is buy a doughnut or a cup of tea on my way out the door.
Unisex bathrooms were also a new experience to me when I travelled to Europe in 1999. My shopping malls have family bathrooms, but it’s really just a large bathroom so parents with children of the opposite sex, who are too old to use the regular bathrooms, can stay together. But in a restaurant in Italy, our first night there, there was only one room – several cubicles with doors – but only one room. I ended up washing my hands next to an older man, who looked more uncomfortable than me. Same thing in Venice, but some toilets were smaller and much lower to the ground (a urinal for men?)…but when I had to “go” in a long line of women who were too embarrassed to use the mini toilet, I politely asked for permission to pass and used it anyway…I must have inspired others because when I left, the line was moving again! Pardon the vulgarity, but I just needed “a pot to piss in” and I wasn’t going to get picky!
One last word of advice: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie, wipe the seatie”!
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