Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Necessary Expense


While I was purchasing funds at the currency exchange--six different types--I remembered to get some American one dollar bills.   New and unwrinkled ones.   I had recalled and been reminded in my pre-trip readings of the necessity of having funds on hand for payment in public washrooms.   American one dollar bills seem to be the universal currency for this, at least for travellers, and other currencies seem to start at higher denominations.    There may be a lesser charge in the local currency known to those who reside in the country but that would mean obtaining coins somewhere.  

Public washrooms are free in Canada and, I believe, in the United States.  There are many gas stations if you are in your car.  I recall from my childhood an attempt in various locales to recoup expenses by charging  ten cents per stall use.   Women would circumvent this by holding open the door for the next in line in department store or airport toilets.   I even recall a little ditty, which I won't repeat here, which involved somehow feeling 'broken-hearted' because the fee had been paid paid but the singer didn't end up needing the facility.  The local government passed a by-law to ban charging for toilets.

There's a book, replete with photographs, called something like Toilets of the World  and if you want to skip the reading there's a calendar.   I've seen many washrooms in my travels.   I recall one place in Italy where the requisite payment resulted in the attendant handing me three squares of toilet paper in exchange as I waited in line.  You learned to save restaurant napkins.  There was a seemingly large outdoor facility at a spice farm in Zanzibar with a twenty foot by twenty foot reed fence encircling  a small block placed in the centre of the ground with a small hole drilled in the middle.   No toilet paper.

In New Zealand there are toilets placed on street corners that appear to be grey stucco on the outside but once inside the walls appear transparent.  Something like this:

I could see my family waiting patiently outside but I kept telling myself they couldn't see me.   I was told the purpose was to prevent drug users from shooting up inside.   Another location had a large sliding door--almost half the width of the circular facility--which would slide open after a certain interval, I believe it was ten minutes.   This was to prevent people from sleeping in the toilet overnight.  In many parts of the world, the toilet consists of a hole in the tiling or concrete, with or without two painted foot outlines on either side.  

Some public toilets have a smiling attendant, usually seen with a large bucket and mop.   Often they speak a language I don't but their little dish with coins communicates the message sufficiently.   One place I recall had one charge for the toilet and an additional one if you wished to wash your hands.

Like the toll bridges I wrote about recently, pay toilets are another example of user fees.  The Toilet Guru will give you more information than you ever thought possible on this universally necessary topic.

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