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Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Something I've loved about the US since my first visit five years ago is the proliferation of Restrooms, or as we English say, Toilets.

ALL big stores, whether department stores or food stores, have Restrooms. Shopping Malls have them, generally near the Food Court. Rest stops on major roads frequently have them. They are kept clean, and well stocked. There are almost always drinking water fountains nearby.

In London, if you are caught short away from home, your options are often limited to pubs or the occasional public toilet. Neither are usually kept very sanitary, and there is often a charge for a public toilet, especially in a major railway station. If you use a pub toilet it is polite to buy a drink or something at the bar, regardless of whether the cubicle had a lock or any toilet paper. Some department stores have restrooms, but they can be difficult to locate even when you follow the signs, and they are not always found on every floor. Restaurants and cafes (e.g. Starbucks) should always have them, but there may only be one shared cubicle for all customers, so again you are supposed to buy something.

The Victorians, bless their memory, installed public toilets and drinking fountains across the city but they are frequently neglected, vandalised, or locked. How does the average Londoner cope? Planning ahead. How do tourists cope? Usually bafflement followed by panic.

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