I know people who never use public toilets. They go at home or they don’t go at all. They can spend a whole day at work without ever visiting the restroom. If they go away for a few days, they say they might pee once or twice a day, but everything else they hold until they get home. I’m in awe at the size of their bladders and a little bit frightened at the possible state of their colons.
However, I can’t say I blame them. Using public facilities is humiliating. There are never enough of them for one thing. Queuing to pee is demeaning. People behind you are always looking at you like they have to go so much more urgently than you and you should let them in ahead of you.
The average Canadian home has 2-3 toilets. That’s more than the average city has for public use. My workplace has 2 women’s toilets in our section for about 30 women. The stench can reach awesome proportions at times. I peer suspiciously at my co-workers lunches to see what they’re shoveling in there that comes out so malodorously.
Out in public, in Canadian cities there are rarely public toilet facilities that aren’t attached to some business. And they’re usually ugly, not too clean and offer flimsy toilet paper on gigantic rolls that don’t roll, leaving you with a handful of tiny scraps. And the soap (when there is some) always smells like composted flowers or nuts or something equally strange and lingers on your skin for hours.
Sometimes public toilets have rough brown paper towels to dry your hands with, sometimes they have those completely pointless air dryers. Remember those real towels on roller contraptions public washrooms used to have? They were cool — until you got to the second time around.
And, not to sound like Andy Rooney, but why do doors to public washrooms always opens to the outside so that you have to touch the handle to get out. I hate that. There’s nothing I like to touch less than public toilet door handles.
Calgary has a pilot project featuring a fully automated toilet-pod kiosk. I believe Vancouver has some of these, too. (Josie??) The entire pod washes and dries itself as soon as you’re done. It also pipes in music. It costs $210 K. It doesn’t sound very eco-friendly or very cost-effective.
Usually when we’re out and about we have very unglamorous, options. There are mall toilets, usually located in some scary, remote spot at the end of a long concrete corridor. They’re always dismal and not too clean. Grocery stores have some of the worst public facilities. I have never, ever been in a grocery store toilet that didn’t have something broken, no toilet paper, no soap and/or was revoltingly filthy.
Department store toilets are just as dismal. Gas stations aren’t quite as horrifying as they used to be – at least the ones along major highways. You still don’t want to spend any more time in them than absolutely necessary.
Restaurants often have really surprisingly disgusting washrooms. Sometimes they store cleaning products, take-out containers and even food in them. I don’t eat in those restaurants. Fast food places can go either way. Some aren’t too bad. Sometimes you have to ask for a key. It comes on a big hunk of wood or plastic. It’s usually damp from the last person. You hope it means they washed their hands.
I’ve never been in a McDonald’s washroom, though, that wasn’t immaculate. The only reason I ever go to a McDonald’s is to use their washrooms. I almost wish they served real food because I’d like to buy something from a place that makes such an effort to keep their toilets clean. And they’ve never said anything about me coming in only to go. Unlike Tim Horton’s who get really bent out of shape if you just come in to use their nasty, nasty toilets.
I guess if I had a business I wouldn’t want all sorts of people off the street coming in just to mess up my toilets. Especially since I’d have to clean them. I’m already kind of grossed out cleaning my bathrooms at home and I know exactly whose hair that is behind the toilet.
I don’t know what homeless people do. Why aren’t there lots of freestanding public toilets in cities where people can have a wash, brush their teeth, do their business? There are places to eat and drink on every block in every city, town and village, yet there’s nowhere to attend to the results of all that eating and drinking.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have toilets that are pleasant and clean and available 24 hours a day scattered throughout our cities? Are the logistics really so insurmountable? I don’t know why some entrepreneurial type hasn’t thought of this as a private business venture. There has to be a way to make money in public toilets. You could sell advertising space maybe?