Wednesday, August 02, 2006

P.F.

Does it stand for Personal Finance? Not in this case: Pee Fee is what I'm thinking, as in having to pay to use a bathroom. I suppose most people have had to do this at some point in their lives. As a kid, I remember department store bathrooms that had locks on the stalls-- you had to put a dime in to open them. More recently, many cities have installed public pay toilets. NYC supposedly has some that were being tested, I think, before a full-scale rollout, though I've never come across one. I've used them in France, though, and they're not that bad, though their futuristic look reminded me of some old episode of Dr. Who where people were put into cryogenic chambers or transmats or something like that...

Where else have I paid to pee? In the amusement park area at Coney Island, they charge 25 cents to use the bathroom (though the toilets on the beach are free). And recently, when I was in a bit of a rush, I dashed into a Chinese restaurant near Bleecker Street in the Village and asked to use their bathroom-- first of all, if you don't know this area, you have to understand that it is often a zone full of partying students, so practically every restaurant has a sign saying the restrooms are for customers only. I have found that if I want to pee in a restaurant, the best approach is not to be sneaky about it: I walk in and ask someone at the front if I can use the bathroom, they see that I am a nice clean young lady who is obviously not a homeless person looking for a place to shoot up, and they say "of course, it's right back there." Actually, the nicer the restaurant, the better this seems to work, especially if I'm in business clothes. But at the Chinese restaurant in the Village, at 10pm on a Saturday night, I did get the "sorry, it's for customers only" reply. Maybe I was so desperate I actually did look like I needed a fix! Given said desperation, I said I'd be happy to buy something and was then waved back to where the bathrooms were. After I'd done my thing, I came back to the front desk and asked the lady how much money she wanted, and she said a dollar. So I gave her a dollar and figured the relief was worth it. Of course, when nature is calling a little less loudly and I have time to walk a few extra blocks, I always opt for the free bathrooms that are now available in most Starbucks, Barnes & Nobles, Borders, fast food restaurants, department stores, etc.

Given the universal nature of this need, I'm surprised that it hasn't generated a bigger money-making industry. Back to the issue of pay toilets in NYC, according to this article:

New York State outlawed pay toilets in 1975 in response to the charge that such facilities discriminated against women. Women always needed a stall, while men could make do without, opponents argued.
I'm not sure if that was someone's idea of a feminist victory-- I hope not! (You can read more about the fascinating legal issues surrounding toilet facilities by visiting the website of the American Restroom Association.) Fortunately,
The city won an exemption to the state law in 1993, a few years after a group of homeless people brought a class-action lawsuit.
And anyway, surely men need stalls sometimes too! And maybe women don't always need them, at least not if you buy this handy device. For about $1 a use, the P-Mate will allow women the disgusting privilege of public urination currently enjoyed only by men.

Well, I'd love to keep writing about this interesting issue, but I, uh, gotta go...

8 comments:

~Dawn said...

I can't believe you wrote about this. Hahaha!
It was a great read. Thanks for making my day!

Single Ma said...

You'll write about anything!! Nasty!



But I like it! Thanks for the laugh! LMAO!!

Madame X said...

At least I didn't title the post "Cash Flow"!

~Dawn said...

OR even "cash flo"

Abigail B. said...

In Amsterdam, they provide free 'stalls' for men only. They are just a rounded piece of metal, with a portion of it extending all the way to the ground. The men can enter the stall, and urinate against the full-length piece of metal. The urine then feeds into a drain. (picture here if my description isn't good enough: http://www.abigailbowles.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=24&pos=81)

I was really annoyed at this, because I really had to go - but I had to pay 25 euro cents at McD's, whereas the men could go for free!

Abigail B. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bitty said...

I can't stop laughing at the P-Mate, which will show up on my blog any minute now.

KMK said...

Six or seven years ago when I was living in NYC, someone (Nike?) published a map of known free public bathrooms (like Starbucks, BN, etc) in the main part of Manhattan. It was free in some magazines, marketed to runners, but I kept it in my bag all the time!