Toilet Talk

16 Nov

There’s one thing the US does oh-so-right as a nation, and yet nobody is talking about it. Unlike our health policies, this is something that all other countries should be copying, and yet it’s never on the news. My country has the best, most generous public restroom policy in the world.

Being from the U.S., the one thing I consistently dread and loathe about international travel / living abroad is the peeing while-out-and-about situation. I’ve been leaving my country of comfy commodes on and off for 13 years now, and I still refuse to accept the status quo abroad.

God bless the U.S. and the constant, easy, free access to a toilet! It might not always be the cleanest toilet. Maybe they’re out of toilet paper. But there’s sure to be a toilet everywhere you go, and even private businesses rarely deny you the use of their potty, whether you are a paying customer or not in that moment. If a business does deny you for some odd reason, there’s sure to be a gas station or fast food restaurant close by where no one could care less about you peeing in their restroom.

Tragically, this is not so in the rest of the world. At least thus far in my travels to Europe, South America, and Mexico, this is not the case. When I go out, I’m always in a dilemma between staying hydrated or wasting long periods of my day looking for an appropriate place to relieve myself. And that’s just finding a bathroom in general, before taking into account the ickiness or the how-do-you-use-that?! factor. That’s on top of worrying about toilet paper and soap, both of which are resolvable with my ever-ready backpack filled with kleenex and hand sanitizer.


{Here’s a particularly clean-looking squat toilet.}

Here in Puerto, I don’t worry about those scary hole toilets. The toilets are mostly standard. At least I never see those holes in the floor you just squat over like I saw in Italy (so not my thing). In people’s homes and in many non-touristy businesses here, the toilet is likely lacking a seat, which conveniently eliminates the whole argument about leaving the seat down or up. It’s not quite as comfortable to sit on as a toilet with a seat, but it’s not bad once you get used to it. The only other tricky thing you’re likely to see here is the flush system. Some people don’t have the plumbing hooked up to their toilet, especially when they have a separate outdoor bathroom (very common here on the coast), so you have to pour water into the toilet bowl to flush it. It’s not quite as convenient as flushing, but it’s not too difficult, either.

But the access to toilets of any kind or quality when one is out and about is sad, sad, sad. If you’re in very public areas, like the market or the big park, you’re likely to find a restroom that charges a few pesos to enter. It annoys me to have to pay for it, but it’s better than the alternative of not using the restroom. The worst is when you’re just out and about, walking or running errands, or at some event even, and there’s NO pay restroom around. There may or may not be restaurants that will let you enter nearby, so it becomes a mission to stop what you’re doing and go hunting for a restroom- children in tow, in many cases. Arg!

It happened just yesterday. Nobody wanted to let me into their restroom in the supposedly magical town- aka a hippy dippy peace/love/potsmoke town- of Mazunte. We went to the beach, but my friend needed to change into his swim trunks, and I, as usual, needed to pee. There were no pay restrooms around, so we went to 5 different establishments in search of a bathroom. We even offered to pay, and none of them allowed us to use their restroom. “Do you prefer I go use the bathroom in the ocean where everyone is swimming!?” I asked belligerently at one place.


{Where’s Mommy? Out hunting a restroom, as usual.}

How can you deny people access to a bathroom and sleep at night? I wonder. I understand that it costs money to maintain the bathroom with toilet paper and soap (hopefully soap), so I understand charging someone. But how can you deny them if they’re willing to pay? Is it somehow going to damage your bathroom to let me take a piss? Is that not what it’s made for? Is relieving yourself not a basic human right? What is wrong with people?!

I was furious (more than usual, perhaps, because of Mazunte’s reputation for being wonderful or whatever). Granted, I should have just gone in to one where the bathroom location was obvious and let them get mad about it later. But I was trying to be nice and polite. Don’t ask me why. I got denied bathrooms when I was pregnant a couple of times, so you’d think I’d have learned then, it’s a survival-of-the-fittest situation. And I’m pretty sure my bladder’s wear and tear is more important than their toilet’s. Polite Kentucky woman though I may be, I refuse to acquire any more urinary tract infections on behalf of people’s stingy toilet ownership.

Furthermore, I’d like to officially state that denial of this basic human right disproportionately affects women. Not only do we typically need to pee more than men, but we’re also usually in charge of taking the kiddos to the potty. And most importantly, it’s much harder for us to take a leak in the middle of the street without serious consequences. I remember taxi drivers in Chile just opening the door of their taxi to cover themselves and peeing right there on the side of a busy street. Men are always just whipping it out and expecting everyone to look away, while folks with vulvas are doomed to spend 20 minutes searching for facilities.

This is total injustice and I demand we change the system! Toilets are for using, not for hoarding! Let us into the restrooms! Be like USA, share the potty today! Women deserve to pee in public, too! (These are going to be my protest signs and chants.) Meanwhile, folks, do everyone a favor and act like a human being; share the commode!

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