Rating the toilets

Paris in spring. I remember the toilet.

Specifically, the toilet on the sidewalk of a busy Parisian street.

And it looked exactly like this (left).

The N.Y. Times has stolen my idea for the cover story when I was appointed editor of the Ontarion, the University of Guelph student paper, in 1987, and decided to rate the local bathrooms as New York City unveiled its first coin-operated public toilet designed to be the high-tech equal of any of its counterparts in Paris, Singapore or other world-class cities.

(I went to local bars — and it cost the paper thousands in lost advertising revenue cause they didn’t like the results. This was before restaurant inspection disclosure.)

The story says that last week, two reporters, a man and a woman, visited six public toilets and, for comparison, two private ones, at a museum and a hotel.

Pennsylvania Station’s bathrooms are located in various companies’ waiting areas. The women’s room at New Jersey Transit was clean and every stall was working. Violins played over a loudspeaker.

The bathrooms in the main ticketing area at the Port Authority Bus Terminal are hard to find (there are no signs and the floor maps are difficult to decipher). There is debris on the floor. Signs warn that plainclothes police officers patrol the restrooms.
One sign details prohibited behavior, including smoking and drinking. It also warns that no one should “bathe, shave, launder, or change clothes.”

The main restrooms in the Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are just past “Egypt Under Roman Rule 30 B.C. — 400 A.D.” and are clean and well lighted, if busy. A bathroom attendant visited twice in the space of 10 minutes.

The bathroom at the St. Regis Hotel in Midtown is just past the candle-lighted library and down the stairs. The lighting fixtures are crystal and the faucets polished brass. A red flowering plant smells sweet. No one else is there.

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