Monday, March 17, 2008

Errr, I'm in here....

I was just reading a past post by Brit Gal Sarah about British and American public conveniences. In the US they're referred to by a multitude of names - restrooms, (although there usually aren't any seats), washrooms, and even comfort stations, which to my mind sounds more like somewhere you'd go when you've had a really bad day. I haven't actually been into a comfort station so they might well give out cups of tea or self-help leaflets. In the UK restrooms are called Toilets, Lavatories, WCs, or loos, bogs, privvies if you're being uncouth.
I can't really come down on either side being better or cleaner as I have had good and dodgy experiences in both countries. Brit Gal has apparently had a much better "restroom experience" in the States than I have, as a) there are very few public conveniences here in Chicago, and b) the ones at the beach here are fairly disgusting.
No, my beef about American restrooms is the complete lack of privacy. In the UK, if you want to find out if the cubicle (or stall) is occupied, you can knock or push the door (very gently since the lock might not be working). This gives the occupant time to leap forward, pee all over her feet, and push the door back. (As a side note, ladies, if you can't stop your pee mid-flow you haven't been doing your Keigel exercises and your pelvic floor is in grave danger.)If there's a gap at the bottom, you can also peek to see if there are any feet.

In the US, there's no need for any detective work because you can immediately see if there's someone in - through the two inch gap on either side of the door. In fact, you can usually see if work is still in progress or if the occupant is almost ready to exit.
I am sure most Americans don't even give it a second thought, and indeed the huge gaps between floor, door, hinges etc. makes it very easy to keep an eye on your kids if you've made them wait outside. But for heaven's sake......


  1. Well, that's it. The chances of my moving to America have no disappeared. Are you saying that not only (as the parent of small children) do I get no privacy at home, but that I wouldn't get it in a public either?

    There is no hope...

  2. Tut tut Expatmum...

    Loo = couth
    Toilet = uncouth

    The same as serviette, couch and lounge are all distinctly uncouth too ;)

    At least, that's what I have always been taught. Blame boarding school

  3. How gross is that, but yo, nuttycow, I love you. Another disparager of the t-word. Honestly, I would rather my children said fuck than toilet. Oops, hope this doesn't offend the obscenity filter, a nasty little thing I fall foul of from time to time! Have always rather worried I might take the restroom bit too literally and just fall asleep on the loo, in a terribly obedient sort of way.

  4. Potty - I have Brit friends who come here and refuse to use public loos because of this!
    Nutty and Milla - of course one doesn't say "toilet" (I have just finished reading the Mitford Sisters' Letters), but it's written on the doors and signs. I think up north we said Lavvy!

  5. Ooooh this made me chuckle.
    - but really you should save yourself all the bother and do what we do round our parts, and just go behind the largest bush you can find in the vicinity! So much more civilized than any public loo I've ever been in!

  6. That is GROSS! No privacy in a public Lav?

    Now you made me say lav. I say toilet. Am I uncouth? :0(

  7. Yes! I have always wondered why they need that big gap. Are people too polite to look through, or do they just pretend not to? It's very off-putting when you need a little privacy.

  8. No privacy, unbelievable, there are some things that need to be done in private!

    Just read your post about pears soap. My granny bought me pears soap every christmas as a little stocking filler and I always had a good sniff before I unwrapped it. Lovely. x

  9. but have you seen those French loos. Yuk!

    BTW, in Birmingham we often say "bog". How common.

  10. Now ladies - I didn't intend this post to become a question of what is the right and wrong thing to say - or in the words of the Mitford sisters, what is U and non-U.
    Right, I'm just off to the kitchenette to make myself a crisp sandwich.

  11. Oh my I just spat my herbal tea across my keyboard laughing!

    How did I miss this point in my post you so nicely linked in. I was just the same when I first got here, even now I always avoid the cubicles opposite the mirrors! You are so right, I am certain people take a peek, even though I never do....just to too embarrassing.

    Off to mop up my keyboard!

  12. Sorry to be uncouth but I say toilet too. And I have to add that my pelvic floor is not what it was. Just for the record.

  13. So funny! I've been meaning to write about this also. It's particularly troubling at work. I'm not sure why. I just don't like seeing which of my colleagues are in the loos and I don't like that they know which loo I'm in... I end up trekking up to the floor above to pee in anonymity.

  14. OH MY GOD! That 2-inch gap comment is SO TRUE. I'd never thought about it before.

  15. You should try the chinese loos then - because they were holes in the floor the division between each one was only waist height so that you could talk to each other ... not good.

  16. Britgal - sorry 'bout that! You'll probably find it brings the keys up beautifully!
    Mother - with 5 kids nothing about me would be what it was!
    Little B - that you have to go to a different floor is hilarious. But I know what you mean!
    Roland - Welcome - sorry, did I give you yet more to worry about?
    F Affairs - never going to China then.

  17. What on earth's wrong with the word 'toilet'? I must be totally uncouth too.

    Must say, for a prudish nation, they do have some seriously large gaps around the 'lavvy' doors here.
    Mind you, I believe Europe is worse. It's the self flushers that get me. Always seem to go into action before I'm ready to exit!

    As for Africa, M.Chick is lucky - when I was in Lesotho, my biggest problem was finding a bush in the mountains to go behind!

  18. My pelvic floor disappeared with my 9lb daughter!!

    I am a huge fan of American paper 'bum-protectors' - even though I'm sure they only present a false sense of security. That's worth a gap in the loo any day for me!

  19. So true! Also I have noticed in US Ikeas that there is about a four cm gap on each side of the door in the loos making the sights you see most unappetizing!

  20. When nature calls, it doesn't really matter what you call it!
    I hate the thought of some one seeing ME in there through slits. Voyeurism, that's what I say!
    My pelvic floor leaves much to be desired!

  21. I was planning a similar sort of post. I have what I call the Sir Francis Drake awards for clean toilets. They have been awarded on both sides of the Atlantic.

  22. This is one of my pet hates. Useful, though, as you say, when you have an independent-minded small child with you. But then there's always the danger that someone will come in, and think you are peeking at an adult, so you have to go into your best Joyce Grenfell voice "are you OK in there?" to avert suspicion.

    It must be the pits at school, I think, where I am sure the kids are brutal about looking under doors, over doors, round the side of doors, at each other. It must be bully-heaven.

    My all-time low was in a public convenience in a cafe where they had heavy-duty curtains that you pulled across, stopping at knee height of course.

    I also wish they would have proper bins for sanitary products. Not open ones, and no bags, which is often the case.


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