Hewitson’s guide to the restroom universe

I know it’s not quite true, but my wife insists I know the location of every public rest room and toilet between Prince Rupert and Edmonton.

I know it’s not quite true, but my wife insists I know the location of every public rest room and toilet between Prince Rupert and Edmonton.

What is truer is that I’d be a happier guy, overall, if I did.

When a guy gets into his sixties and seventies, according to my doctor, there’s a bit of an increase in the number of times that becomes important knowledge.

It’s simpler at home and not so bad when visiting friends. But on the road in the thinly-trafficked Yellowhead Highway,  yes, sometimes it is good to see that “rest stop, 1km” sign.

Actually, going back, I’ve been very aware of my bladder and more frequent calls of nature for a long time. Even in management meetings at Uncle Al’s, it was often a higher-level priority than the occasional urge to nod off.

So, spotting a  story in the Globe and Mail (my agnostic’s bible) about bladder control research studies, I was curious enough to peek, then read, then view the readers’ comments.

After I got over my initial concern that Canadian research money was available to study an oblique subject like decision-making with a full bladder,  I wasn’t so troubled after I learned this was not U. of T. or U.B.C., but Dutch university research – I do know that encroaching water is a big issue in parts of the Netherlands.

(Sorry, I just couldn’t resist that awful play of words!)

Anyway, this story contended something that I would likely dispute, from personal experience, that better bladder control helps a person make better decisions in life.

That sounds like a stretch to me, but that’s what the study suggests.

With fines ranging from $500 in Calgary to $200 in Toronto for public piddling, and similar laws in place in most Canadian jurisdictions, this may be a good conclusion in general, but when I find myself in any strange location, it remains one of my first priorities to identify the location of places “to go.”

This also does not mean this is knowledge you only need on the road.

Often, shopping at Mountainview Square or in City Centre Mall I’ve been grateful for not having to ask the location of the men’s’ room.

At Tamitik Arena, I  believe I could find my way in a blackout.

It’s true too, as my wife asserts, I am pretty familiar with the various locations of numerous less-well-known rest stops between here and Edmonton, or where pubs have more than one stall.

It’s kind of like having a special needs GPS in your head.

There are quite different approaches to public rest-rooms in North America compared with some places in Europe and Asia.

In North America rest rooms  tend to be tucked away, indicated by vague symbols of men and women and little blue arrows.

They are more high profile in some places – for example, in England there’s a semi-transparent mirrored street rest-room in front of London’s famous Tate Gallery, and some users have to steel themselves, despite the fact that it’s one way glass – they can see out but people outside can’t see in.

Still it takes courage…

There’s another type in England, Ireland and Amsterdam that is cylindrical and literally pops up out of the pavement – and can accommodate up to three people.

China boasts the largest public rest-room in the world, a four-storey affair in Quongqing in western China. There are 1,000 toilets in the 30,000 square foot structure – many of them in formidable and unusual shapes, including a number of alligator jaws.

A Hong Kong precious metal dealer has a public gold-themed rest room in his business, with toilet, tiles, sinks and doors

all made of solid gold.

There’s a men’s room in New Zealand that is equally as scary as the one in London, because immediately in front of you is a wall-to-wall mural with young women taking photographs, taking out their measuring tape, laughing or looking very shocked – all at eye level!

And there’s one in South Korea, shaped like a soccer ball. It was built for use during the World Cup in that country in 2002…but looks a lot more like a smaller geodesic dome like the Vancouver Science Centre.

But it’s certainly a step up from the crowded men’s rooms people jam into in many older European and British soccer stadiums.

And I’ve been in Paris and what they offer for the use of men, particularly on street corners, isn’t really something that I care for – but France also boasts some of the most interesting minimalist self-cleaning public toilets which are very inviting.

But don’t take too long – the doors open on a 20 minute timer!

ahewitson@telus.net

 

 

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