You're a-Peein' Abroad

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

3 MONTHS IN EUROPE, Days 1-8: 
We have gradually been warming up to the Europeean way of peein'.  In the U.S., we relegate public restrooms to afterthoughts, in both building design and, even more, in maintenance.  More often than not, neglected American public restrooms require one to hold one's breath throughout the process lest you smell the abominable odor or inhale some of the thousands of germs lurking about since the last time the restroom was cleaned in 1974.  And God forbid you touch any surfaces in an American public restroom!  You may as well head straight to the urgent care center for an update of all your vaccinations.
No so in Europe.  Rather than hiding them away, restrooms are advertised with bright lights, as in the signs above from the Luxembourg City rail station.  After all, toilets are a business, so let's be sure the customers know how to find them.  And, of course, post the prices so clients can have their coins at the ready for that urgent visit.
No need for separate entrances
Ken has finally warmed up to the idea of paying for the use of a toilet, an idea that he initially resisted in Amsterdam as an attempt to invade the deep recesses of his pocket where he shelters his coins.  By now he has come to appreciate, as I do, the service one purchases for 40 to 50 cents (and sometimes more).  
Signage makes the prices clear.
Some creative entrepreneurs have even created a differentiated pricing structure based on the particular facilities one wishes to use.  What could be more fair?
A toilet turnstile
And automation has been introduced to give the attendant more time to tend to her duties.  This eliminates the need to have one person collecting the money and another doing the cleaning.  In our experiences so far, toilet attendants ensure that the restroom is kept very clean, often actually wiping the seat between users.  Well worth a few coins to avoid that visit to the doctor.
As is often the case in a manual operation, the toilet attendant at the Brugge rail station was set up in the corridor leading to both the ladies' and gents'.  From the queue, those waiting their turn had a nice view of the row of urinals in the men's room, which luckily had an 18" wall between each pair of pissoirs.
When it was Ken's turn to enter, the attendant apparently thought he would perform at one of the spotlighted stations, as she sent him in when all three stalls were occupied.  What neither realized was that the one stall in the men's room that was occupied by a desperate female customer was left unlocked.
Since it apeered vacant (no space at the bottom of the wall to see feet like in the U.S.), Ken opened the stall door.  Both he and the woman inside began laughing at the confusion, and when he came back to the corridor and told the attendant what had occurred, she burst out laughing. 
When have you ever had this much fun in a U.S. restroom?
After she translated for some of the women in line who didn't understand English, a general riot of cackling laughter exploded in the corridor.  One young Belgian woman (the blonde in the foreground) could not stop laughing, convulsing into guffaws every time she thought about what happened and thoroughly enjoying the toilet faux pee.
Now, how can we get this system imported into the U.S.?  Clean toilets and entertainment besides... pee-riceless!