There's been much ado of late about public restrooms: Who can go in, who can't go in, when someone can or can't use them, who looks like what when they use which bathroom.
As I've mentioned in a previous blog "Here's what Should be Banned" there are a lot of things that need to be cleared up in public restrooms long before we worry about whether the 0.6% of US adults who are transgender are using the "right" restroom or not. To whit: non-standard bathroom fixtures.
(That "To Whit" is just for Hubby...when you've been together as long as we have, you have a whole vault of little inside jokes.)
Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, my newest rant about public restrooms.
My issues with public restrooms is well known. But I believe now, with this blog, I am taking a step toward what I believe will cure what I see as a massive public health and safety issue.
Think I'm wrong? Ponder this:
Let's start with the stalls. Some stalls are narrow. Like, too narrow for a human person over the age of seven to walk in, close the door, and turn around to sit. Under my new rules for standardization, all stalls in all public restrooms will be the same size...large enough for ME in a winter coat, to walk in, remove said coat, close the door, and sit down. I'm slightly larger than the average US woman, so that should be a good, or at least better fit, for most of the women in this country. Of course, handicapped stalls wills still be larger, but now regular stalls will be large enough so that fluffy ladies like me won't be tempted to use the handicapped stalls.
As for automatic toilets, I would BAN THEM ALL. Please. Automatic toilets scare the crap out of little kids (pun intended) unless they don't and then you have kids running in and out of stalls while mom's relieving herself and this drives up water usage and cost. Also, automatic toilets don't work for crap. (again, pun intended) What do I mean? Think about it: How many times have you sat down to do your business and you get that mid business flush, splashing ice cold nasty toilet water all up in your parts. And then when you are done,,, you can do all kinds of motions and rain dances and the thing won't flush so you wind up doing what? Pushing the button! Yes, automatic toilets...out!
Which brings me to the sink area. In my experience the sink area is the ONLY place where any semblance of standardization exists. To whit: (LOL HUBBY) the water from the faucets is ALWAYS ICE COLD and the sink area is ALWAYS PUDDLED AND WET.
The sink area is a minefield of non standardization. Are the faucets automatic or do you have to turn on the water yourself? Are they motion sensored, or do you touch the bottom of the faucet? Same questions for the soap dispenser, only add the following: Is there a soap dispenser by every sink, or are they all mounted to the wall on either end of the mirrors so that the people using the middle sinks have to drip across other sinks to get soap?
Let me solve this for everyone: automatic faucets and automatic soap dispensers at every sink. Oh, and they MUST be motion sensored but sensitive so that no one has to do a Mayan fertility dance to get the water to turn on. And all water faucets much be set to "reasonably warm."
What? We can't do that? WE PUT A MAN ON THE MOON. WE CAN SET WATER FAUCETS TO REASONABLY WARM.
While automatic toilets are terrible, automatic sinks and soap dispensers work mostly because people are pretty much negligent when it comes to turning off the water or using a proper amount of soap. Think about your kids...how often have you walked into the bathroom and it's crusted with hand soap because there isn't a child in the world who gets just how much is enough when it comes to pump soap? (Whether or not any of it gets on their hands is another issue.) the same goes for public bathrooms. I've slipped in more than on soap slick on the floor (Because some bathrooms think it's a good idea to have the soap pump mounted over the floor rather than the counter.)
Sink and soap...done. What's left? Hand drying.
Hand drying is what started this all. I was in a restroom at Panera recently (and they have decent restrooms) and I had two options for hand drying. I'm old school. I prefer paper towel. But paper towel of late has become a tricky thing to use in restrooms. There are several options, should an establishment offer towel at all.
1) Pull with one hand.
2) Pull with two hands.
3) Motion sensored. (Which gives you about four inches of paper.)
4) pile of towels set in a decorative basket on the counter. (Which is always a little moist because people splash and drag wet hands across the whole pile. So...ew.)
Do you see the nonsense? At this point you must agree with me that bathrooms need to be standardized because we've gotten to the point where you need an operations manual for every public restroom. And I'm not done!
I like paper towel and I like the motion sensored option. But it needs to spew out at least 8 inches of paper. Otherwise, we're back to that Mayan dance.
Now, for those places who are all ecological and want to save trees, but don't care a bit about electricity, we have several options for hand drying.
1) Push the button and wave your hand under the nozzle. Repeat the process until your hands are dry or you give up and wipe your hands on your pants.
2) Motion sensored, wave your hand until it starts and then keep waving until your hands are dry.
3) The Dyson thing where you stick your hands in and dry it...like the last blower thing at a car wash.
This last option seems like the best, right? But then I bring you back to the mom who is in a stall and lets her little angels treat the restroom like Disneyland. The Dyson is the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride of the restroom.
What's the answer here? In my world of standardization it would be the Dyson thing, because unlike previous attempts at electric driers blow (I'm on a roll with the puns) BUT I would put some kind of sensor in there so little hands can't turn them on willy nilly. For the wee ones, it's motion sensored towel, set high enough so that when the restroom becomes Romper Room they can't activate the towel.
But the biggest issue in restrooms is the wet counters, and how on EARTH can we fix that?
I've spent some time studying other industries and I believe I've got two ideas that would work.
1) Bar counter top with a drain beneath.
Picture this: A counter top that's made of bars, rather like a roller table, but the bars are stationary and there's a catch sink beneath.
Why this works: Granted, you're not going to be able to put small things on the counter, they'll fall into the catch sink. But you'll cut down on the need for paper towel and your purse won't get icky wet.
2) Reversible scrubby/sponge counter top.
Picture this: A counter similar to those kitchen scrubbies. Tight, but soft, plastic mesh, Washable, reversible. Different colors on either side so it gets flipped one time in a day and then washed. Would sit in a form fitting sort of basin.
Why it works: While not as solid as a typical counter top, this would still wick away excess water and the ability to keep it clean is much easier. Also, we'd have to make these things (job creation) and they would have limited use (more job creation) but the cost of replacing is much lower than replacing a full counter. Could also double as a diaper changing station if space is cramped.
And speaking of diaper changing stations....
They should not be in any one's bathroom, male or female. This should be a separate room of several diaper stations. Family restrooms are a good start, but I'd like to see diaper changing places removed from regular public restrooms and put in a specific use room. Why? Because then it won't slow down anyone needing to use the handicapped stall (many places stick the diaper station in the handicapped stall) or the flow in and out of the restroom itself. If a business is pinched for space, then they can take out a stall in the ladies or ALL the urinals in the men's (because urinals...ew. I used to clean them and...ew.) and make a small room for this use.
Now, call me crazy, because many have, but I'm on to something and you know it. The restroom is, without question, where the most germs lie, and it's a room we all need to use at one time or another. Why make the experience more difficult than it has to be?
But Sarah...you say...standardizing all the public restrooms in this country would be expensive to businesses.
No, says I. See, I know there's all kinds of money floating around Washington. We taxpayers keep paying taxes and the money just floats away. I propose the following: Cut the wages of Congress. Seriously...cut them. Like to minimum wage. (Two birds here, one stone.) Make them try to live on what the rest of us have to and also, since they only want to SERVE US, they don't need to take home millions of taxpayer dollars in cash and benefits. Oh yeah, and they have to live under the same health plan we all do. No platinum plan on the taxpayer's dime, nope.
Once we cut Congress's wages and benefits, believe me, there will be enough money there to hire a crap ton (another pun) of people to train as plumbers, electricians, and remodelers, and get this job done!
And then we wouldn't need signs like this:
And then maybe, just maybe, once we've made public restrooms less difficult and disgusting for EVERYONE, then we'll have also figured out how to make sure EVERYONE can use them without needing an act of Congress. (Because, you know, now that they'll be making Minimum Wage, they're going to want to work over time...and we just can't have that.)