*British slang for bathroom (at least it was in the 80s).
I have an odd hobby. Well, truth be told I have several, but I’m only willing to expose them one at a time. In today’s episode, I offer my interest in comparing restaurant bathrooms in Boston. A number of years ago, my friend Lora and I were going out frequently, and we found ourselves being able to remember the bathrooms from the previous night out to compare and contrast. Some bathrooms try really hard to be high-class with that little antique wooden stand holding real flowers clearly flown in from wherever shi-shi flowers are flown in from out of season. And big, thick paper hand towels that actually dry your hands and not leave them half wet as you head out the door, having to choose between flapping them like a dork or patting/wiping them discretely on your outfit and risk hand prints. Oh, and the fixtures that take you a minute to figure out how to work them because they look more like an art exhibit at the ICA or from page 57 of the Italian fine fixtures catalog, Bene Infissi. And it’s not just high-end places that have fancy bathrooms, let me tell you. Sometimes it’s decent enough, yet average restaurants that have these bathrooms. As if they are reaching for the water closet stars.
Mostly though, the average independent casual restaurant has the utilitarian bathroom: white sink, wall dispenser of brown towels, and 50% of the time, a bottle of hand soap from CVS. Alternately there is the ear-splitting hand drier that self-importantly claims to have saved a 1,000 trees and untold numbers of forests. Perhaps, but what about my hearing loss from the high-pitched screaming of the driers in very small space? At least the newer fast flow ones actually do dry your hands. The slower driers do the exact same job as the cheap brown paper towels.
Of course, then there are the dive bars and their matching bathrooms — cramped little affairs that have names, advice, insults, and phone numbers carved into the walls, aging them to the point of putting the pyramids to shame. They also have questionable cleanliness that actually encourages you to get more drunk, so you don’t really notice of the state of the bathroom.
I was in one of my favorite watering holes recently, an Irish bar, and noticed something different: the bathroom doors were standing ajar, with the open door pointing away from the stall at a 45 degree angle. I wrestled with it for several seconds, but it wouldn’t open any wider. I tried another door. Same deal. I finally moved to a door that was flush, and realized the doors push in.
So, if you’re a woman with a bathroom hobby, that begs the question: What the heck happens in a Irish bar filled with millennials who work in the financial skyscraper next door that creates bent doors? Is there some sort of trivia night or karaoke dark underbelly that leads to bathroom rumbles? Or was it some kind of X-File, and next time I’m there, I’ll find Scully and Mulder examining the hinges and having an argument about supernatural forces vs. vexed trivia night women?
See, bathrooms are fascinating.
Anyway, I went with friends recently to see Motown the Musical at the Boston Opera House. It deserves and will get its own blog, and I’ll write about that soon. I encourage you to see it if you can. It’s been going on for a while, and is only playing in London right now. So seriously, you’d better get a move on about that.
At intermission we headed for the bathroom. At the time my bathroom curiosity radar was off because during a show or event, a woman needs to focus. There could be 3 bathrooms or 30, but either way, you have to be at the front or you find yourself at the end of a long-ass line and miss the start of the second act. I was just hoping for more than 3 bathrooms, and when I got inside I saw about 14. Excellent. Suddenly, from above me, I heard numbers being called out. “Number 14 is open. Number 8 is open. Number 3 is open. Number 11 is open.”
Now I’m confused — women are entering and exiting the stalls at a rapid pace, and while the activity seems to be connected to the numbers being called out, I cannot figure out where the sound is coming from. First, I thought it was an automated thing, like announcing the floors on elevators, but the voice coming from on high had too many human inflections. Then I thought someone was looking in at us via a camera and that was just too creepy. The calling continued: “Number 4 is open. Number 7. Number 10 is open.” Amid the confusion of the doors opening and closing, suddenly it was my turn. I refocused on getting in an out in time for the second act. I was still puzzling over the thing on my way back to my seat, when my friend Lora caught up to me.
“So, what did you think about bathroom bingo?”
I burst out laughing, “Yes! That’s exactly what it was! Where was that voice coming from?”
“Didn’t you see the woman standing against the wall at the very back of the bathroom? She had a microphone.”
Clearly, I did not.
So, now, apparently, jobs at the theater include ushers, ticket and merchandise cashiers, and … bathroom bingo callers.