Great #Restrooms of America #roadtrip
American restrooms are great. The fact that they are called “restrooms” is the first thing that is great.
For the roadtripper, there is nothing like a rest in a room, as a contrast to the travel in a van.
It’s cute though, the euphemism. It’s a toilet. Not really a room for a rest, as such.
In the UK they are called “toilets” because they are primarily toilets. Or “Public Conveniences” which are our euphemism. Or the very old fashioned “W.C.” just to confuse everyone.
The second comedy feature of American toilets is the fact that the doors of the stalls are all, and I mean all, about two feet off the ground. This is mental. It is so consistent, the raised door thing. You can’t really see it here, but it’s a definite phenomenon. Maybe not two feet. I should have measured it. Maybe it’s federal law or something. Seems to be a regulation height.
Every set of toilets I entered gave me a flashback to the movie “Witness” where the bad guy kicks in every stall door, looking for the wee Amish kid that is standing on a toilet hoping against hope that he isn’t about to be shot.
I don’t know why the doors are so high. The advantage is that you can totally see people’s feet, so you can see if the stall is occupied, so you don’t have to do that surreptitious duck ‘n’ glance manoeuvre that we have to do here. Or that ginger as ginger push at a door with an ambiguous vacant/occupied indicator. It does mean that it would be super easy to steal someone’s bag and leg it out of there while they were still indisposed. However, if you got locked in, you could totally get out alright, which is a plus. On the other hand, a mischievous person could just too easily lock them all from the inside and that would be annoying for everyone else. Not that it crossed my mind at all.
The other consistent thing about the American restroom experience was the inclusive vibe. When you enter the restroom, instead of there being a wall’s worth of identical stalls, there are all-but-one regular stalls against the long wall and the last one in the row takes up the whole of the short wall at the back, making it big enough for a wheelchair. Either that or there is only one toilet and it is an enormous, disability-friendly one.
It was kind of freaky the amount of restrooms we went to that were identical in layout to other restrooms. They have maybe cracked the winning formula of restroom layout. I just don’t think they have cracked the optimum “height of door off the ground” thing. I reckon eight inches ought to be enough.
The most impressive thing about American restrooms is the amount of them and the access to them. Here, if you want to go to the toilet somewhere, there is an expectation that you are going to spend a penny both literally and metaphorically. “Customers only” and all that. I did see ‘customer only’ restrooms in the city, but in the middle of nowhere, we were free to spill out of the van and into the restrooms no matter how much or how little we spent. We certainly bought enough soda, pringles and pretzels to cover our costs, I reckon.
As well as the open access there was the handiness. You hike to the middle of nowhere – there’s a long drop. There’s a shuttle-bus stop in a National park – there’s a long drop. There’s a gas-station – a restroom. And so on.
If there are going to be people there, there are toilets there. They might not always be utterly pristine, or even plumbed in – but at least there are toilets there. The fact that there are toilets there removes the anxiety that there might not be toilets there, so you don’t end up in that knot of travel anxiety of toilets and their existence and accessibility.
Oh – and the automatic flushes! I forgot about that. I don’t know if the self-flushing toilet is a result of a chronic national laziness or whether is is just ‘the way forward’. The good thing about the automatic flushes is that the toilet was always flushed. But in the restrooms without automatic flushes, people just walk away without thinking that flushing might be needing to be done, so that’s less pleasant. The automatic flush can be a bit of a surprise to your unsuspecting visitor from the UK! And American flushes are vigorous, generally.
But that’s the flushing toilets. When you are in the middle of nowhere, plumbing is not going to happen. The good long drops have no flies, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The bad long drops have an impressive horror-film soundtrack of swarms of flies circling in the darkness, the cavernous pit vibrating with their corporate murmurations. The worst ones are broken or dirty. But I like a long drop, on occasion.
Eco-minimalism and all that.