To be completely honest: To pee or not to pee

To pee or not to pee: that’s actually the question in these days. Whether it is nobler … etc, etc … to soldier on in search of a public toilet (bathroom, rest room, comfort station – take your pick) or to follow your nose to the nearest dark recess for blessed relief.

Follow the yellow illuminated code
“Come on Frank,” I hear you chorus. “It can’t be that hard to hold out long enough to find a public restroom.” Well, actually, when you get into the advanced age of the enlarged prostate, it really is a matter of urgency in every sense of the word.

I was recently out on the town with my son for a beer or two and a meal, and we were on when the call came. Now I know the location of a few public looses in Copenhagen, and we had already passed most of them, so the search was on.

With no luck at first, and the possibility of a secluded niche becoming more attractive, we found ourselves on Gammeltorv in front of a large, bright yellow sign with an arrow pointing along Vestergade and the words “TOILET, open 24 hours a day”.

See the promised land
Convinced that the lack of other information on the sign indicated that the promised land must be very close, we set off with renewed optimism, only to end up at Town Hall Square. I thought I’d try a well-known burger joint, only to be told their restroom was “closed” (closed to those who hadn’t bought anything, I suppose; it was still early evening). But I was assured that there was a toilet at the metro station!

Almost half an hour later I had examined all three levels of the station in minute detail, but I had failed to find a toilet, or any sign of one, or indeed any indication that one even existed!

It was only when I left the station by a different staircase to the one I had entered by that I saw a sign, hidden behind the ubiquitous rubble that dominates the square and cannot be seen from the road.

And lo and behold, there really was a huge, brand new facility staffed by just one woman and a cleaner. After ascertaining that I was indeed in a unisex toilet, I was then shown the door to the urinal room and relief at last!

The ugly truth
A few days later I spoke to a friend who works in the city center and is very familiar with the smells that greet her every morning. It was clear to me that the big yellow signs are a desperate attempt to lure revelers away from peeing in the street to the underutilized public loo. And I suspect they don’t indicate the location of these loos on these signs as that would just reveal to people how far they actually are from the nearest toilet!

There are several interesting factors involved in this situation. Danes are known to be reluctant to put up ‘ugly’ signage when it can be avoided or done in a discreet way. They are probably also worried about the potential ugliness of public toilets and have recently gone to great lengths to bury them underground.

So how do you express the obsession with ‘good design’ here by the inconspicuous placement of public loos and signage with smelly streets? And the constantly ugly construction sites too, although that’s another matter.

Source: The Nordic Page


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