Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Accident-Free Tourist

A Commodious Tour of The Bathrooms of New York

For a woman of a certain age, such as I, the difference between a delightful and a disastrous travel experience often comes down to the availability of an adequate bathroom at just the moment when it is needed.  The word “adequate” here means reasonably clean, with an actual toilet seat, and running water and soap to wash up with afterwards. 
This bathroom is not only adequate, but green.
In my younger years, I did not let the threat of inadequate bathrooms stop me from traveling.  Some of my destinations did not have Western style toilets but I was agile and learned how not to fall in. 

The worst bathroom I ever encountered in my life was not in a foreign country, but stateside, at the Roosevelt Hospital emergency room in New York City in 1992.  Even 22 years later, as this year’s vacation to NYC approached, I remembered that experience with trepidation.

After our arrival in Manhattan on a Sunday evening in August, we hopped on the subway down to Canal Street and wandered around Chinatown.  I saw many signs that said, “Restrooms for patrons only.”  This struck fear into the heart of my bladder.  I realized that I would have to take advantage of every adequate bathroom available to me, because it might be many hours until another acceptable toileting facility could be found.

The first New York bathroom I visited was in the small Chinatown restaurant where we ate dinner.  This bathroom was so narrow that I had to insert myself into it sideways to squeeze past the sink, Lilliputian though it was.  The walls were nearly touching the toilet on each side. This mini-bathroom did meet my Adequate criteria, though.

The following evening we went to a restaurant called Trattoria Trecolori.  I had beet and goat cheese salad and potato soup, Youngest Daughter had chicken parmigiana, and my husband had frutti di mare with black squid ink pasta.  Delicioso! But let me not waste time telling you about the food.  The bathroom was fine, and had a clever poster on the wall.  It was here that my husband suggested that since I obviously was just in NYC to tour the bathrooms, I should take photos of them.
The more-than-adequate bathroom at
Trattoria Trecolori on 47th Street
Not all Manhattan bathrooms are squeezed for space.  Our hotel bathroom was spacious and clean, and included both a hair dryer and a mysterious phone thing on the wall.  Maybe it is like the call button at the nursing home.    
Hotel bathroom: plenty of counter space for
three people's things

Other end of hotel bathroom.
If that bag is the hair dryer, what is that thing on the wall?
Maybe it is a Soviet listening device.

Of course, The World’s Largest Store is bound to have a large bathroom.  After a glorious visit to the Empire State Building (getting there early is key – no big lines!), we just had to stop off at Macy’s in Herald Square.  The cavernous facilities were appropriate for such a bastion of swanky capitalism.  In a nod to American individualism, in the sink area each spot had its own separate soap, water, and hand dryer. 
Largest Store; Nice Bathroom

I really TRIED to take photos in the bathroom without
anyone noticing.  This lady in Macy's was quite surprised
when she came out of her stall!  I have cropped the photo to
hide her image. Fortunately I was not arrested for
taking bathroom photos.

I am happy to say that not once did I experience a bathroom without toilet paper.  In fact, supplies seemed to be plentiful.  One evening, we met some friends at a Turkish restaurant called Beyoglu (delicious and reasonably priced).  The bathroom had enough room for this very large supply of toilet paper.

In New York, many important functions occur underground, and toileting is no exception.  The facilities at many restaurants are down the stairs in the basement. God help people who are wheelchair bound or who have bad knees in New York.  No bathroom for you! 
After breakfast at Lindy's, I trudged down the stairs to the bathroom.

When traveling in NYC, you should be aware that some tourist locations are integrally related to water.  For instance, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are both on actual islands, and can only be reached by tourist boat, which can only be reached by standing in line for two hours in the hot sun, which can only be survived by drinking a gallon of water.  My advice to you is:  as soon as you set foot on that boat, forget finding a seat with a great view, and instead go directly into the bathroom (it is to the left of the entrance ramp).  There will not be a line, and you might even finish your business before the boat leaves the dock.  My further advice to you is:  buy your ticket for the Statue of Liberty boat ahead of time!
Lady Liberty is HOLLOW inside, so she never
needs to find a bathroom.

An unexpected problem was where to put my stuff in the bathrooms of New York.  NYC does not seem to be fond of hooks in stalls.  In Greenwich Village, at a Panera’s type eating establishment, the bathroom was adequate if industrial-looking, but got bonus points for having a hook for my bags. 
+20 points for sturdy hooks

Part of our travels took us to the East Side neighborhood where we lived in the years BC (Before Children).   We had a snack in the diner where my husband proposed some twenty-five years ago!  The current version of this diner included an ancient man who spent the whole time swabbing the floors with a greasy mop.  He applied this mop to the bathroom floor, which meant that when I entered, it was all I could do to keep from slipping and falling.  The bathroom was too small to permit falling far.  Nevertheless, this bathroom rated Adequate.
Not the exact spot where my husband proposed to me, but close.

A trip to New York is enhanced if you have the opportunity to take in a theater performance.  We went to the Gershwin Theater to see Wicked.  I have unadulterated loathing for spending the entire intermission waiting in line “to go,” but it had to be done.  It was there that I experienced the militarized ladies-room line.  The theater had actually hired a bathroom coordinator who stood just inside the door and directed each of us to the next free stall.  It was a very smooth operation.   

Given this tour’s focus on waste, I thought it would be appropriate to show you that we were right behind a garbage truck as we headed down into the Lincoln Tunnel for our trip home. 
Homeward bound


Angie said...

A post on NYC bathrooms -- love it! I wouldn't have thought of that. And I did not know CHD proposed in NYC!

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Well, I can say that this is the first restroom review blog post that I have ever read. And it's awesome! Also, I love the title. I, too, appreciate adequate facilities. I may or may not travel with a little pack of seat covers. :-)

smalltownme said...

I love restroom coordinators. I've been to a few big concerts where they were lifesavers.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I am TOTALLY touring NYC again before my bladder shrinks any more. Wow. You are a peach to post this review!

Cassi Renee said...

I'd have never made it down those stairs for that one restroom!

It's a good thing I didn't visit NYC while I was pregnant.

The Crislers said...

Best bathroom tour and most creative NYC tour I've ever been on. Can you imagine answering the question, "So, what do you do for a living?" with "Oh, I'm a bathroom coordinator. Snagged the job because I majored in bathroom coordination in college."

Patience_Crabstick said...

It looks like a fun trip! I love the picture of the steep bathroom stairs at Lindy's.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

Thanks for visiting my blob :) I knew that NYC had changed from when I lived there 25 years ago when I was in bryant Park, not afraid for my life, and there is a palace of pottys open to all, with fresh flowers and classical music and an attendant...not the rough and ready NYC of years ago :)