The Toilets…Home to the highest concentration, per square foot, of subtle U.S-U.K cultural differences anywhere across our two nations. But aside from the fact that you call them restrooms or bathrooms, and we call them the Gents, the Ladies, the Loo or simply the Toilets, for Brits there are peculiarities to be witnessed in many public conveniences Stateside.
Number one: The gulf in accepted levels of privacy hits you the first time you walk into the toilets and find a female cleaner casually taking care of her cleaning duties while men mingle around her, taking care of their business. At home, the cleaner arrives, the sign goes up, and NOBODY must pass, until the job is completed.
Now we’re in, let’s move on to the cublicles (stalls). I’m not sure about the rationale behind this, but in the U.S. there is on average a half-inch gap between the frame and the door itself, a huge gap from the floor to the bottom of the stall, and insufficient wall-provision for anyone standing above six feet in height. I’ve tried to think of reasons for this lack of privacy, and they range from being sordid to touching: For example, maybe it’s so people will be able to notice easily and call for help if someone collapses Elvis-like on the tiles.
Moving on to the toilet experience itself…In the men’s room we’re talking about either the urinals or the old-fashioned water closet. Firstly, it’s impossible to perform one’s functions quietly in an American toilet, such is the splashage that goes on with that bowl so full of water. Secondly, a collection of urinals (pronounced ur-eye-nals at home) in any given U.S. public restroom might be placed at a startlingly arbitrary variety of heights – another thoughtful touch from the designers.
Once the deed is done, we move onto the wonders of Infared technology. No self-respecting American restroom would be without the hands-free tap (faucet) and hand-towel dispensers. That’s right, there might be 7 types of STI on the doorhandle, and a queue (line) of undesirables outside just waiting to add to the bacterial maelstrom, but my word…that shakey-hand dance looks cool when you’re trying to get dry…It’s all about the timing.
I’ll miss the entertainment of the American toilets when I have to leave. Only yesterday I witnessed a man high-kicking the flush on a urinal, an impressive athletic feat that ensured he walked away clean-handed.
Until next time,
Posted in Brit Bit