Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I don't know about major American cities, but London has a proliferation of public toilets (in England, a bathroom is a toilet, a toilet is a loo) scattered about the city for those who really need to go but don't want to have to patronize some random establishment in order to use their john. I was in such a predicament yesterday while making my way from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, and so I decided to give it a shot. It was a rather discomfiting experience.

Basically, for 50 pence you get 20 minutes in the stall. The door slides open and then you press a button to shut it behind you. The toilet actually ended up being pretty clean, but the size of its maw (I wondered if I was going to fall in) and the rest of the sensory experience made it terrifying. These units are right next to the street and so the sounds of traffic and passersby is ever present. The sound of the toilet bowl filling up with water takes on a new menace in this vulnerable setting, and your shit seems to smell even worse. The flushing, at least in the stall I used, involves filling the bowl up with water before sending the waste on its merry way, an intimidating sight. Once you're done, there's automated hand-washing facilities at the sink. One faucet ejaculates and then dribbles soap, and then hot water and a blow-drying follow.

Bottom line: use them if you have to, but you'd be better off using the loo before you leave.

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