What do you do when you encounter a bathroom sign like this? At the very least, I could make out that WC meant restroom, but for which gender was this designated?

Now you may ask whether I could determine gender by comparing the image of the androgynous  child to the image on the other door, but there is no other door. The two restrooms at this restaurant were in separate sides of the building. With no reference point, I could only try to translate “Vomini.” I was at an Italian restaurant, so I figured maybe “men” would be something like the Spanish hombre, but my meager experience in Romance languages proved unhelpful. A Google search for “vomini” only turned up oddly gender-neutral results.

Well, when in doubt, just do the visual spot check. I peaked inside looking for the familiar urinal for confirmation. Instead, I find another unique feature. There was one enclosed stall with a toilet, and next to it was another toilet with no stall or door at all. What do you make of that? Well this didn’t look like a single-occupancy, after all, there are two toilets. But who would sit on the toilet with no door with a clear view to the sink?

I acknowledge that classier places don’t like to have the clear and ambiguous stick figure with the caption “MEN.” But there are plenty of ways to indicate which gender belongs in this bathroom without the familiar blue sign. If it’s a unisex bathroom, then might as well invite everyone. Either label it plainly “RESTROOM” or put up one of these amusing signs to invite the whole family.

And as far as the poor quality photo, the restaurant was also exceedingly dark, which made the gender confusion all the more prominent.


Edit: My co-editor has brought to my attention that I had an Indiana Jones moment. ”Dammit, in Latin, Jehovah starts with an ‘Y’.”
Uomini means men, but they spelled it with a ‘v’ because, well, it’s Latin.

“Please do not throw paper towels into the toilet”

-The Management

I’m sure we’ve all see the above message before, in all its variations in grammar and language. Some are more creative than others. Sometimes I feel like I’m being scolded, sometimes dared. I especially appreciate the ones that try to be humorous, although clogged toilets really aren’t that funny. But every time I see this sign in a bathroom, I always wonder, “Who actually tries to flush paper towels?”

Toilet paper is made to dissolve in water. It has one main function. This is why a roll of Charmin is terrible when you have a runny nose. A wad of TP quickly rips and leaves a drippy, unhygienic mess upon contact with liquid. Septic and waste treatment systems are designed to handle two things–stuff that comes out of humans and the stuff humans use to wipe. I know in some countries, the septic system can’t even handle toilet paper. But this is America. And if there’s anything we should be proud of, it should be wiping our asses then dropping the whole mess down the hole without another thought.

Paper towels are exactly what the name implies. They are a paper substitute for towels. Every paper towel advertisement out there touts the miraculous integrity of its paper product. In a public restroom, the paper towel is used to dry your hands and for any other major clean up. Once you’re done, it goes in the trash can. And on that note, please stop using the paper towel to open the door of the bathroom and then tossing it on the ground. We all know the handle is disgusting, but that’s no reason for you to make an even bigger mess.

Now that we know the two separate uses for toilet paper and paper towels, why would the paper towel ever be in the toilet? Occasionally, a stray towel might end up in the stall for whatever clean-up duty it has been assigned, but that should be so rare an occurrence not to need a general warning. Hence, most often, you’ll see the sign in single-use bathrooms, in which the toilet is within tossing distance of the door. I hypothesize that the paper towel used to open the handle is just tossed straight into the nearest open receptacle. Everyone should know by now not to clog the toilet with a towel. I feel like the warning will have no deterrent effect on those who would perpetrate the crime anyway.

And as for warnings to keep feminine products out of the porcelain bowl, I am going to stay consciously ignorant of disposal procedures for those items.

Beware of black seats!

Like the restaurant that keeps its lighting too dim to tell how ugly your food is, the public restroom with black toilet seats is equally malicious and misleading. How do these toilet seats not create wild public outrage? If you’re anything like me, your main concern with public toilets is sanitation. Privacy comes as a close second, but that gives way quickly in an emergency. We all know, especially men, how dirty toilet seats are. Guys already know the seat is dirty; they don’t want to touch it to lift it before the do their business. Speaking of which, I plead to all guys to use a urinal whenever possible and only save the toilets for the solid business. I really don’t need to find a wet toilet seat because of your insecurities peeing next to another guy. If you must use the stall, lift the seat. Your aim is not that good no matter how many times you’ve written your name in the snow!

Unlike choosing a urinal, the main concern in choosing a toilet is cleanliness. I would choose a stall in between two other occupants if  that one is cleaner than the stall by itself in the corner. Frankly, if you’re already in the same bathroom, there’s not far you can go to escape a guy sitting on the porcelain throne. Proximity fears  go out the door with a spreading noxious cloud.

The problem with black toilet seats is that they lull you into a false sense of security. At a glance, it’s difficult to tell if the seat is actually clean. Worse yet, you won’t know until you take a close look, and by then, you’re pretty well settled in. It’s certainly awkward to walk back out of a stall after you’ve already dropped your pants.  Establishments that employ black seats are unfairly representing the cleanliness of their bathrooms. This is why you typically see black seats in places like public schools, where the seats are frequently smeared and custodial staff are underpaid and overworked. If you see a bathroom with black seats, hold it in and find somewhere safer.