The Onion has an amusing article on a man’s attempt to find a public restroom:
AMES, IA—A local resident’s search for a public bathroom became an epic odyssey of alienation, humiliation, and human cruelty Monday.
“You have no idea what I’ve been through,” said Pete Webster, 27, recovering from the harrowing ordeal in his apartment. “From endless ‘Bathroom For Paying Customers Only’ signs to toilets so disgusting they’re unsuitable for vomiting, I saw it all.”
Webster’s bathroom search began at approximately 1:15 a.m., 30 minutes after leaving Burrito Bob’s, where he consumed a double enchilada platter and a 32-ounce Pepsi. Though he felt fine upon exiting the popular late-night eatery, he soon felt an overwhelming need to defecate.
“I should’ve gone at Burrito Bob’s,” said Webster, who had spent the night barhopping with friends. “But I didn’t have to go when I left. Besides, I figured I could always just dart into a gas station or some 24-hour restaurant and do the deed.”
“What I failed to factor in,” Webster continued, “is the unfathomable darkness of the human soul.”
An amusing article, particularly because I can relate to it so. What I find odd, though, is that it appears under the new special “Suburbs” section. This strikes me as an anti-suburbs problem. Seriously, almost every case I have been unable to find a public restroom, it’s been in the city or way out in the country.
I am not sure why this was in the Suburbs section. I figure it’s one of two things:
1) Laziness. They have a suburbs section because it’s sponsored by a new TV show that is making fun of the suburbs. They needed articles for it and just threw this in there.
2) Stereotyping. The suburbs are supposed to be places of ” alienation, humiliation, and human cruelty” in the imagination of some. Therefore, this must be a suburban thing. If this is the case, it’s remarkably ignorant and clearly a case of stereotypes overwhelming reality. Sort of like how notions of suburban alienation (you never know your neighbors, nobody trusts anybody, etc.) overwhelm the studies that have suggested that no, in fact, suburbanites tend to know their neighbors more than anybody.
The restroom problem exists in the city precisely because it’s a low trust environment. In the suburbs, you are less likely to have to keep the bathroom locked because you don’t have to worry as much about what goes on. You have less to worry about with regard to transients and so on. The same actually applies to some rural areas for a different reason. If you have a convenience store on the side of the interstate, you have a lot of passers-through (as opposed to members of the community). And in both cases, where the restrooms are public, they are often in poor shape.
You noticed something similar when it came to gas pumps. The first places to start instituting pay-at-the-pump were either in urban areas or rural areas just off the Interstate. The suburban area I was raised was the last one to put them in. Why? Because in urban areas, and in rural passer-through stations, you had a lot more to worry about with drive-offs. The suburban areas? Less of a concern.
This is all really just common sense. But common sense holds no candle to the believe that (a) if a place is bad and (b) something bad is happening, then (c) the bad thing must be happening in the bad place.