Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Public Bathrooms

     Public bathrooms are gross, more often than not. They require constant maintenance, and you never really know what to expect. But when it comes down to the point, they are "heavily trafficked" and a completely necessary commodity (everybody poops). When I thought about what to nominate as a weapon of inclusion, many things came to mind - public transportation, sidewalks, plazas, community gardens, free outdoor movies - so many features that characterize the city. But when I looked to a considerably more open city than Baltimore, and recalled my personal experiences as a visiting traveller in the midst of complete unfamiliarity, I had a very particular remembrance of something that, in many instances and on every occasion, I've had to deal with. The city I am talking about is New York, and I'm referring to being out on the streets all day and forever looking for a bathroom. New York is the only place where I've had the unique feeling of total relief at the sight of a Starbucks, guaranteed to be on every block. Each Starbucks store has no customer restriction on bathroom usage, and when I'm in New York I've come to depend on that. Walking about the city in all hours of the day, having to look for a restroom is a common thing. You familiarize yourself with it. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll be able to find one in a subway, park, or a half decent one at a gas station. Other times, you have to inconspicuously walk through a restaurant or bar. Especially if you're not from the area, chances are you might have a hard time finding the few places that locals know are user-friendly. One night, the closest place turned out to be a high end apartment building where my friend, who didn't even live there, knew the doorman because her best friend in high school's mom lived there (or something), on the floor just below Ludacris. 

     Obviously, public bathrooms don't open the city by enabling social interaction (usually?). People aren't brought together through them, aside from spatially. But when you think of rest stops, for instance, and how they free up long distance travel, the same notion is applicable to the streets. It is very difficult to really explore and maneuver any city, especially on foot or without money, if you lack, among other things, the necessary facilities like that of a bathroom. I feel like in Baltimore, where places and destinations aren't closely concentrated as they are in New York, the lack of said facilities can significantly deter both residents and visitors from branching out. You simply can't wander about, and therefore you miss out on encountering new and intriguing places in your search for relief, if you doubt the certainty of an accessible public bathroom. 

     Though finding myself in these situations of desperate search is always irritating, I am always glad I made the effort because I'll find a new, surprising place to return to on another day. And I am a little amused, still, by the sight of a distinguished looking gentleman coming out of a porter potty. 

No comments:

Post a Comment