Friday, January 2, 2009

Bathroom Stalls: A Gap in Coverage

I always thought there had to be a better way, but I didn't realize it already existed until I traveled to Germany, but I’ll cover that later. You know what I’m talking about, that half inch wide gap between the bathroom stall door and the stall’s wall that all but negates an privacy you thought you had in a public restroom. The gap essentially works as a reverse peep hole, allowing the person on the outside to see more of you than you can see of him. Just what you wanted while you were wiping. In the United States, our privacy in a stall is pretty much void. First of all, there is a giant gap at the bottom of the stall allowing everyone to know whether you are a boxer or briefs kind of person. If you happen to be at work and carry an ID badge, it also allows other bathroom patrons to know exactly who it is that is not getting enough fiber in their diet. Second, if you happen to be in either the 2nd or more in a series of stalls, the lack of exterior indicators(being able to see the dangling feet under the stall) forces the bathroom patron to peer through the giant gap, at you. Catching you with the sports page and your pants around your ankles, the patron moves on to the next stall to repeat. The less patient patrons attempt the police method of serving you a stall search warrant. With no warning, they grab the handle and try to pry the stall open. Not only is your deep concentration interrupted, you also must pray that the ¾ of an inch lock sufficiently spans the half inch gap and locks the door securely enough to withstand this assault. If the lock holds, the patron then must inspect why their efforts failed by sticking their eye in the gap to examine the stall occupant, as if the door could lock itself. To a more skilled and frequent user of a public bathroom, also known as a Turd Burglar for their ability to come into an occupied bathroom and freely do their business, depriving the person next to them their freedom relieve their bowels, the foot check method works to great success. Third, because most sinks have full sized mirrors and are positioned opposite the bathroom stalls, patrons washing their hands get one more chance to see who may be behind the gap. Occasionally, you may even meet eye to eye. The mirror can be helpful for those detecting the occupancy of stalls down the row. One need only look for feet in the reflection of the mirror to gauge the occupancy of the desired stall. I won’t even get into high school bathrooms and their kicked in doors ( I have never understood why a person would kick in a bathroom stall door). Occupants are not without their defenses. A cough, sneeze or toe-tap can sufficiently deter an interruption.
I have now been to Germany twice and seen that they have lived up to their reputation for being great engineers. The Germans solved to resource gap that prevented the extra half inch wide on the bathroom door from being produced and installed. Believe it or not, the bathroom door comes flush to the wall. Not only that, but they also eliminated almost the entire gap at the bottom. Did the fact that these gaps were filled deter a confused American from being able to figure out whether or not a stall was occupied. Not for a second. To illustrate, I must mention the most deplorable bathrooms we use here in the states as an example of how Americans have figured it out. Porta-Potties have no gap to tell the beckoning patron of its occupancy, instead, an external indicator of green/vacant and red/occupied is displayed on the door handle. Unfortunately, what the porta-potty has in security is lost in cleanliness. The Germans have comfort and security in the world of interior public bathrooms by creating the seamless stall with occupancy indicator. As an added bonus, the sinks are often placed in a room separate from the stalls, allowing for even more privacy. The lesson here is let’s be more European in our bathrooms. Let’s be like they are in not knowing what turd burglar is.


Kansas Bob said...

Apparently you have never been to a toilet in China. Those things are murder!

jrchaard said...

My goodness. I am spoiled. by the way, at Metro this morning, I noticed a king gap stall. the one next to it was a tighter fit.