The visitors bureau probably isn’t going to hire me for this particular brand of expertise, but I know just about every good public restroom in my area.



The visitors bureau probably isn’t going to hire me for this particular brand of expertise, but I know just about every good public restroom in my area.

I haven’t been blessed with a bladder of steel, so I’ve made my way into restrooms at local restaurants, shops, gas stations, hospitals and schools. Some restrooms are out of the way and known by few. Others are easy to find — and leave you wishing that perhaps you hadn’t found them.

I’m not sure whether there is a market out there for a public restroom design consultant. In this economy, probably not. Nonetheless, I would make a good one. Certainly, I’ve put in enough time visiting and studying various public restrooms to have earned a doctoral degree in it.

The worst of the worst public restrooms are the ones with doors that don’t close. Putting latches on bathroom stalls isn’t exactly rocket science, so there’s not a good excuse for this

Another top offender? Dirt. Grime. Gunk. The germaphobes among us know perfectly well that restrooms are filled with the things we don’t want to come into contact with. So when I see a restroom desperately in need of cleaning, I almost feel compelled to run home and shower.

Those restroom faux pas are fairly evident, of course. But there are other design flaws which are, perhaps, not as noticeable.

Take the one-stall bathroom at Wal-Mart. Really? In a 2 million-square-foot store, one stall is enough to do the trick?

Or how about the 90-degree turn leading into the skinny handicapped stall at the end of a narrow aisle? Restroom architects should be required to maneuver into a handicapped stall using a wheelchair or stroller, with three bags over their shoulders, before submitting final plans. Better yet, shove a pillow up the guy’s shirt to mimic a pregnant belly and see if he can squeeze in his stall then.

And of course, let’s not forget those ever-popular toilet seat covers. The concept is pure genius, but they were designed by someone who was not a pure genius. I have yet to see one of these lightweight tissues actually stay on the seat in the time it takes me to turn around and sit. 

My ideal public restroom would feature a few bathroom luxuries, like a lotion dispenser next to the soap dispenser. It would have sanitizing spray available to use on the toilet seat, and that automatic flusher would be history. (Again — great in theory, faulty in design.)

The stall door also would have a high latch, something that can only be appreciated by moms of toddlers who think it’s perfectly acceptable to open the door and walk out before Mommy is done.

There would be a step stool at the sink for washing little hands, and it would not require an advanced degree to figure out how to make the automatic water faucet work. The soap dispenser would always be full, and a supply of paper towels would be on hand. Certainly, those hand dryers that are supposed to be hygienic — but mostly serve to leave everyone with wet hands — would be banished.

Handwashing would be one of the requirements of this dream restroom, of course. Much as you have to pass through a metal detector at the airport, you would have to pass through a germ detector to leave the bathroom.

Think I’m being paranoid? Consider that 97 percent of women and 92 percent of men say they wash their hands, but only 75 percent of women and 58 percent of men actually do. The
American Society of Microbiology — the folks who came up with those statistics — also say that only 8 percent of teenage boys use soap while washing their hands, a fact I try to push out of my mind every time I pick up an order from McDonald’s.

Those statistics are the reason behind the final feature of my dream restroom: Automatic doors. It makes very little sense to pull open a door with clean hands when at least 25 percent of the hands touching it still have bathroom germs on them.

Rockford Register Star