I’m lucky enough to belong to two great writing groups, one of which meets in New York every week.
We meet in a Public Space near Julliard close to Lincoln Center. I had never heard of a Public Space- spoken of in capital letters- before I met these excellent people. A Public Space is a place where you have the right, just by being a member of the public, to be there. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s something of a big deal here. They don’t kick you out because you’re taking too long to finish your cappuccino or someone else wants your table; they only kick you out for being seriously annoying and/or dangerous, in which case the cops do the kicking. Not that I would know about that.
At the Public Space in which we meet there is a Public Restroom. These are rare and highly valued in New York. One of the reasons I’m not revealing the exact location is so that you don’t show up and I have to wait to use the restroom because you got there ahead of me. I live in Jersey. We don’t play nice.
There are actually two public restrooms in this Space, but one of them has no door handle and while you would think you would just be able to push the door open and go in, you can’t. I have no idea how to open the door. I’m not writing about that one.
I’m writing about the other one.
I had to be sneaky to get these pictures. Every corner of this building is under surveillance, and authorities here don’t take too kindly to people taking pictures of the insides of buildings.
A Unisex bathroom. I’m down with that. Except. . . it has multiple stalls. Huh.
Even though the door goes all the way to the floor, it’s weird.
Because girls go here…
And so do boys.
It got me thinking. Somehow there’s a very European feel to this restroom. I base that on absolutely nothing, because the only two places I’ve ever been to in Europe are London and Berlin. While I did have a unique restroom experience in Berlin which you can read about here, that restroom looked nothing like this restroom, with its instructions on how to flush:
And how to panic:
(Here’s the panic button. You can’t miss it)
My natural inclination, upon walking out of a stall and running into a member of the opposite sex in a public restroom, is to panic. However, to date, I have restrained myself from hitting the panic button. It’s poor form.
Have you ever run across multi-stall unisex restrooms? If so, where? Is it weird, or is that just me?
38 thoughts on “Yours, Mine, and Ours”
Cool that you’re in two writing groups.
As for the unisex stalls, I just wouldn’t be comfortable saying, “Light a match or something!” if it might be a member of the fairer sex on the other side.
I’m very lucky to have both groups.
Now that you bring it up, I’ve never heard a single word spoken in that restroom.
We have unisex stalls like that at my local hospital. If I’m in there, and hear someone else come in, i’ll stay there til they’ve left. I hate it.
I wonder if it’s a trend. And if so, can I opt out?
September/October 2008 just as the Beijing Olympics were winding down, I was in China with a Spanish dance company. Their toilets are not like ours and neither are many of their bathrooms (always always always carry your own toilet paper, ALWAYS). Our host institution was Eastern University in Shenyang. Our second stop, after nearly a week in Shenyang, I thought I was getting this whole China thing down when I was thrown for a loop. This Eastern University had nearly a hotel to put us up in and the broken concrete mattress was replaced with glorious lumpy Motel 6 cast offs.There were several dining choices and we were treated to the most upscale on our first night. All things considered, it wasn’t bad for a university in a blue collar steel town; kind of trying to be chic and sophisticated in a tacky vinyl sort of way. We were seated at our table, ordered drinks and in addition to needing to wash my hands, a bio break was over due. Our ersatz translators, Sally and Summer needed the same. Since they could read the signs, I let them lead the way. We came to an open entryway and I paused. Sally giggled and said,”you go in there.” The entry opened on a dark room with no lights, a row of stalls down one side and a row of sinks along the other. It then continued into another room that T-ed off the first and was a well lit Men’s room with a row of stalls right in front of you and urinals along either side of the opening between the two sides of the room. Sally and Summer took up stalls next to each other in the “Women’s” half and never once interrupted their conversation until returning to the table. I darted across to the “Men’s” side and utilized a urinal out of view. There were only stalls and urinals in the light, the sinks and mirrors were in the dark, along with the women. I quickly washed my hands and politely looked at nothing. For a bunch of comrades allegedly equal, there sure seemed to be a lot of old world sexism going on.
“A Step Up Closer Helps Keep It Cleaner”- can I get one of those for my house? Truer words are rarely spoken. I love this story! And I’ve made a mental note to always always always carry my own toilet paper when in China.
Toilet paper is also not guaranteed in India… Although I’ve seen it in a lot of places its not guaranteed. So carry your own 😛
Interesting post. I came across something like that at the SIngapore airport. There is a gym, with a unisex changing / shower room. Each shower / room is separate though!
At first I was self-conscious, but then eased up a few minutes into it. I think most people felt something like that. It wasn’t a public space, and you had to pay to use the airport gym and its facilities.
Another similar situation was in Amsterdam at Schipol airport. This was many years ago. The ladies and gents were separate but right next to each other, with a very open design…so you could clearly look into the men’s from the ladies….and vice versa. Weird at first, then I thought it was very interesting. It made me think do we have to separate the restrooms? is it because it’s always been that way? or did things happen in the past that caused the separation?
I’m totally going to be on the lookout if I go to Amsterdam or Singapore. I wonder too if it’s always been separate. All I know is that it’s always been separate for me, so it’s totally weird when it isn’t.
After using squat toilets in Japan, I can pretty much handle anything now. Although I would probably suffer from peeing anxiety if I was aware a member of the opposite sex was in the stall next to me.
Clearly, I haven’t seen enough of the world. And I get bothered when people can hear me.
Wow, I’ve learned so much from this post. I have definitely never seen a unisex, multi-stall bathroom! And right in my backyard. What’s the world coming to? Although I have definitely seen men’s rooms turned into women’s rooms (and that never fails to make me very happy)!
PS – Hope Irene steered clear of you! We still don’t have power!!!
Here’s one for your guilty pleasures- the next time Rush plays in NJ, you should go. It’s the only stadium event you’ll ever attend where the mens room line is nine times the ladies room line. No waiting! We’re unscathed so far from Irene; we’re awfully lucky. Hope you get your power back soon.
Very cool that you’re in two writing groups!
i ran across unisex bathrooms in a hostel in Paris when I was 15. Coming out of the shower wrapped in a towel to find a very naked man was quite the education for me. 🙂
Wow! I bet that was. . . eye-opening. I’ve got to get out more.
Now I’m not bashful any way, but I don’t think I could take a dump with the ladies present.
Um. Yeah. What he said.
I’m totally trying to figure out what possible panic-inducing emergencies could happen. I mean I get that it’s a unisex bathroom and therefore it’s not unseemly if a guy walks in after a gal, which would normally make people think, “OMG he’s going to attack her in there,” so a panic button is not a bad idea because that could still happen and nobody would think it was weird that a guy walked in after a gal. But I’m pretty sure if I saw a panic button while I was in the bathroom I might be tempted to push it because… I dunno, I reeeeeally have to go and the stalls are full. Or it smells exceedingly bad.
Here’s the thing- each stall has a panic button inside. I’m more than a little tempted to push it just to see if everyone leaves so I can go in peace. I can’t get left alone in my bathroom at home either.
I’m not ready for unisex bathrooms either. I can see how it makes a lot of sense, but still…it would make me uncomfortable. But I bet I would get used to it – I imagine it is simply a matter of what we’re accustomed to. Anything different throws you for a loop at first. Even so, I’m not in a hurry to experience this one.
Multiple panic buttons…. nice. I have zero panic buttons, think they can spare one?
I’ll bring my tools next week and see if I can swipe one for you. Damn. Probably shouldn’t have written that on the internet.
The first time I saw the toilet I am about to describe was in New Zealand. They are a small building in appropriate places (for the public) and every hour they wash themselves – like the fire sprinklers going off I assume. They are definitely unisex and I wondered what would happen if you happened to be in there are the wrong time! They lock when you go in and are opened by touch (a bit like an iPhone I guess).
Whoa! That’s a trip. I did see toilets in London that appeared only at night but I don’t think they were self-washing. I am almost positive I did not hallucinate this.
That’s weird, I live in New Zealand and never seen those! I must go look. Where were they?!
You can try Waimate.
I wrote a post called ‘Travel Guides – The Missing Chapter’ because the topic of bathrooms in foreign places just isn’t discussed much and I have some experience! Your example of a unisex bathroom with multiple stalls is new to me!
The topic of bathrooms in other countries really should be one of the first things in the travel guides. They need you.
The ancient Roman Colosseum had 1,000 toilets
I wonder if that was enough.
Lets get down to the nuts and bolts of this issue… Let’s say, you are in a bar, out for drinks, and are talking with an attractive guy… then you excuse yourself to the loo. He decides to take this opportunity to take a leak himself. He comes in through a different entrance, but in the middle, you share unisex arrangements. You are washing your hands and see him unzip from behind, hear the long streaming flow of his former dirty Martini… he turns as he zips up, sees you, forgets to wash his hands and scoots outa there.
A minute later, you return to your place at the bar. He offers to buy you a drink. You are silent. He hands you the drink the bartender has just made. You know he has not washed his hands.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. This is the entire problem with unisex bathrooms right here. Thank you, Spectra.
I’m with you, I don’t want any part of unisex bathrooms. Can’t we keep some things private? And I can’t imagine being back in the dating scene, and having to use the bathroom with guys you were checking out, or worse–creepy bar guys.
Very cool restroom post!
I can’t believe I wrote that – and meant it!
it’s like you’re living the real life Ally McBeal at that restroom. Take advantage of this by breaking out into song the next time you’re in there with other people.