(Ever thought of putting in a port-o-let?)
Ask ten people what their impression is of a public restroom, and it is quite likely that eight out of ten of them will distort their faces into a pained expression and make a variety of peculiar sounds.
Are such reactions really necessary? Or do Americans just tend to be snobs when it comes to using public bathrooms? Are that many public restrooms actually so far below normal sanitation standards, or are people merely too fussy for their own good?
Restrooms are, after all, a private lesson in reading quality literature and in meeting fine people. Where else can you read "4 a Good Time Call Monica 555-5550", or "Homey G's Rule"? Or how about "Britney rocks" and "Kevin licks-" well, we won't go there? There are the old standbys like "Megan puts out" and "Tara does the whole city". There is certain to be a Pulitzer Prize winner among the authors published there. The writer's conferences are generally held in the last stall on the left.
One specific question often comes to mind when contemplating restrooms. Why do they call them that? A "rest" room would be a place one goes to "rest", wouldn't it? And resting in a public bathroom is not a common occurrence. In fact, toilets are not designed with comfort in mind at all. The cold hard plastic seat with a large hole in the middle that adorns most toilets, is not the kind of place one would want to rest for too awfully long. In fact after spending just a very few minutes upon a throne of this sort, one often begins losing the sensation in their legs. Eventually the blood flow becomes completely restricted causing numbness and back pain. No, a toilet is not a recommended option for rest. Nor is the floor in a restroom. Even the slightest glance in that direction is a proven health hazard.
In some European countries, it is common to have to bring your own toilet paper. It is not provided in some of their public restrooms. In the good old U.S.A., although it often is of the consistency of sandpaper, most restrooms come fully equipped with the paper.
Other European countries have taken to providing loads of new restrooms-many on corners everywhere. The only drawback to these new facilities is that they charge admission. No, they don't sport signs saying "Pay to Pee" or "Pay a Pound to Poop", but they do in fact come laden with a coin operated lock. It is uncertain what the going rate to "go" is at the present time.
There are places in some Asian countries where there aren't even toilets in the restrooms. Instead patrons are forced to squat and use a hole in a cement floor. This particular form of public elimination may lead to public humiliation, as there are no separate stalls. This is another B.Y.O.P. (bring your own paper) restroom facility. One might also consider B.Y.O.P.W. (bring your own portable wall) should privacy be an issue.
In more primitive countries there is simply no such thing as a restroom. Elimination is considered perfectly natural-which of course it is-and they consider being natural anywhere nature prompts them to be natural. This includes the road, in front of a neighbor's hut, and usually in the immediate presence of others.
In Japan, the public restrooms resemble large porcelain infant cradles cemented into the floor. Tourists are often a bit confused, as it is unclear when squatting to use this facility, whether or not to face it or back up to it. The correct implementation? Squat and face. Sounds marvelous, doesn't it? A helpful traveler's hint would be to use the handicapped stall instead of the cradle in the floor type. Use of the handicapped facility by a non-handicapped person is considered to be perfectly acceptable in Japan. And the handicapped facilities are equipped with toilets-as we have come to know and love them.
Is there anything that can be done in this country to improve the standards of restrooms, and possibly help to educate the rest of the world on proper restroom reflections? There are, in fact, several things than could be done.
Resurrect the almost extinct employment option of the restroom attendant. Although still a viable option in some upscale hotels, restaurants, and stores-there was a day when many restrooms had attendants. A man or a woman (obviously depending on the proper gender sign on the door) would constantly tidy the restroom. They would ensure the availability of necessities like paper towels, soap, and toilet paper. Vending items were kept well stocked, too, and were in fact items of pure necessity in these restrooms. Nowadays one can practically do their Christmas shopping in a restroom-from aspirin to hand cream, perfume to hair gel-it can now be purchased in restroom vending machines.
Restroom attendants also ascertained that the restroom happenings were in fact just that. The graffiti sketchers and writers were intimidated by the restroom attendant, and instead took their artistry out back to the wall of an adjacent building. Illicit activity was also kept at bay, as the attendants frequently conversed with the patrons and knew instantly if one was shady or indiscreet. They were privy to their most intimate secrets, turmoil, and pain, and often heard more about their problems than necessary. However, also being employees relying on the tips of restroom patrons, the attendants often feigned deep concern for their customer's well being.
Although restrooms have certainly made incredible strides since the days of the outhouses in the back yard, laden with the old Sears catalogs in place of the more expensive toilet paper-it is a shared belief that they still are sporting definite room for improvement. Cleanliness, operability, selection of reading material, and in some cases a primitive aspect-all contribute to the sense of disenchantment of these havens of bodily function. However, when it comes right down to it, just how much does it really matter? Because after all, when the going gets tough-not even the tough can stop "going"!