Friday, March 07, 2008

Caught short?


It's been a long time since I was a newcomer in the US, but I vaguely remember a time when I felt awkward going into an establishment where I had no intention of buying anything simply in search of the toilets. In the UK, the toilets are only for the use of the customers. With the demise of the public convenience, this is becoming a problem which some local authorities are well aware of as people (mostly men I am sure) choose to urinate in the street. Westminster City Council estimates that thousands of gallons of urine a year are peed onto its streets and alleyways! Apparently, in Twickenham places like KFC are being offered 600 quid a year to put a sign in their window announcing that their toilets are open to non-customers, and last November, Westminster City Council launched the "SatLav" mobile phone service which alerts people to the nearest public toilets. Texting the word "toilet" to the number 80097 prompts a quick-response text with details of the nearest facilities and their opening times. (This is telling of another cultural difference - cell phone users in the UK are far more likely to use their phones for texting than American cell phone users. )

So what kind of places would you go into to find the toilets, with no intention of buying anything? A fast-food restaurant? A pub? A restaurant? Would you go into a city building - city hall?

9 comments:

Canoez said...

Ok, so it's sexist, but the pop-up urinals in Westminster seem to have been around since 2002:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2382831.stm

Most places in the US DO have public toilets, but you have to think in a non-linear way. Public buildings like libraries and city halls have them available. IIRC, in Stowe, VT they even had public toilets available just off the main street.

Casdok said...

Yep i will go in and ask anywhere if i can use their loo!

Expatmum said...

Gosh - after almost 18 years here I still have to make absolutely sure that other people are also using a loo somewhere without buying anything. I have even been known to stand in line for a cookie at MacDonalds while my kids use the loos!
I have noticed that more and more establishments here are putting signs up saying "No Public Wasahroom". And I can count on one hand the number of public loos I have seen - most of which are even worse than some in England.
There's some lovely public loos on Amelia Island, off the north coast of Florida called "Comfort stations". The name just makes you want to go in and have a loook!

Expatmum said...

Sigh - "washroom". Sorry.

sablonneuse said...

I have been known to pop into the hospital when desperate. Otherwise it's a case of hang on till we get our favourite café. On the other hand I know of one public loo just off the main square in Charleville but it's not very easy to find if you're not already aware it exists.

AliBlahBlah said...

I say ask any pregnant woman you see - she's bound to know the nearest clean toilet within a 100 yard radius - I know I had Santa Barbara mapped out by the time I was about 6 months pregnant!

I also have no qualms about using the gents (provided it's not a multi-stall deal). I think they're more embarrassed than we are!

ExpatKat said...

I'm with you there Ali - I too have been known to stand guard at the gents while my kids use their bathroom. Sorry guys, but when a toddler can't wait, you can!

BritGal' Sarah said...

This one of the things I absolutely love about the USA, funnily enough I have a piece half written awaiting blog approval on the ease of public peeing in the USA!

Not only are the loo's yucky often in the UK but they guard them like the crown jewels!

Not so here....generally clean and usually fully available to the public...my kinda country!

Pumpkin Pie said...

My husband was going to buy a coffee at a German Cafe just so his seven months pregnant wife could go to the restroom. I ran ahead to the restroom while he did the ordering.

It was an emergency!

Unknown to me, the cafe did not accept cards which we found out is common in Germany. In France, cards are taken everywhere and they even have those little card machines that can be carried around.

When I came out of the restroom I was greeted by a nasty faced man speaking to me in German. I couldn't find my husband to translate for me since he knows some German. I finally figured out the man was telling me I could have said thank you for the toillet because toillet in German is almost the same as in English and I knew thank you in German.

He kept repeating it over and over to me. I looked at him and told him equally nasty that I was sorry but I did not understand German. I am American and I speak English.

He didn't understand and the woman working with him had to translate it. I could see that her face was red and she whispered so the customers could not hear.

I looked around the room and all the people were watching with shocked looks on their faces. I think he may have lost some customers that day for picking on a prenant woman.

The French have the same policy but I never had a problem with an owner not letting me use the restroom while I was pregnate. It was like I had a free go pee card.

So, it made me very angry to see that this German man was so rude when he knew my husband was going to buy a coffee but since he didn't take cards my husband couldn't. He could clearly see that I was very pregnate.

I am sorry to say that that is not the only bad customer service experience I have had in Germany even if it was the worst one out of them all.

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