Bathroom policies, there's an easy solution
Forty-odd years ago, while sightseeing in Scandinavia, I first encountered a hotel ladies’ room where the toilets were enclosed in cubicles with floor-to-ceiling doors. When I got ready to leave mine, the door stuck.
I’d come down some stairs and a long, deserted hall to reach these facilities after my husband and I mingled in the big bar upstairs with a crowd of Finns who’d come to party in Sweden. He was laughing and drinking beer and flirting with the women, and how long would it be before he missed me and came to the rescue?
Hollering for help would be futile, so after a few pushes to the toilet door, I sat down on the john, planted my feet in the middle of it and gave it all I had. It took three or four tries, but at last I was out. (This maneuver had to be repeated several years later on a train during a visit to the restroom shortly before I was scheduled to arrive at my stop, which was New York. I panicked: Would I have to ride all the way to Canada?)
And did I mention that I suffer from claustrophobia?
I got to thinking about all this when reading about the new public restroom legislation enacted last week in North Carolina. It specifies that transgender people must use either ladies’ or mens’ facilities corresponding to the gender assigned on their certificates of birth.
Well, for starters I’ve never in 80 years of life on this planet had to produce any kind of legal document before entering a public restroom. And I can’t believe that North Carolina is going to assign state employees to sit outside them to scan the documents of those seeking access.
There’s a simpler solution to this needless furor about transgender people and public restrooms, readers, unless everybody is willing to concede that the likes of Ms. Caitlyn Jenner will go unnoticed in the ladies’. Ditto for anyone who has transsed in the other direction.
My advice is to declare all restrooms unisex, and install floor-to-ceiling doors on the stalls (even though that will annoy claustrophobes like me), which will contain toilets like those we have in our homes and with signs over them imploring the males to “please put toilet seats down after using”.
You’ve probably noticed that the facilities at events like Jazzfest are individual toilets designated “women’s” and “men’s” and slightly removed — geographically — from each other. At smaller events, the toilets are unisex, and I’ve never had any trouble standing in line with a bunch of guys seeking relief.
Nor would I have a problem seeing a fellow trim his beard next to a woman freshening her makeup in a hotel or restaurant restroom. But if that would offend others, then just put small mirrors and little hand-washing fountains in the cubicles.
I know, overhauling restrooms would cost money. But in North Carolina, getting back the businesses already threatening to move out would be worth the expense.
At my age, not a lot of the things others get excited about actually raises my blood pressure. And having two millennial grandsons with whom I’ve conversed in depth about every kind of social and political issue you can imagine, I predict that things like the current public restroom controversy soon won’t interest many Americans for long.
Things change. Me, I can remember outhouses with more than one hole.What was that about?
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.