Bathroom Elitism
Photo by Corey Balazowich, used under a Creative Commons license

A perfect holiday topic, eh?

I was thinking about bathrooms today, as I read this post about a bad situation on a Qantas flight. The short version is that British comedian Alan Davies was on a long flight from Australia, let his 2 year old play in the bathroom closest to their seats with a cup and some water while he held her. He was then chastised for being in a first class bathroom when not a first class passenger, and things very quickly escalated and Mr. Davies was told to F off when he asked for the steward’s name. Charming, eh?

I can completely relate to the keeping kids occupied on a flight thing. Kale has flown to Calgary and back and it’s about 60 minutes. We spent the entire time trying to keep him occupied and in the end (on the way there, at least) he passed out after grousing for about 20 minutes, and then slept for about 2 hours in Ross’ arms while we disembarked and awaited our baggage. Good times. Of all the parts of our upcoming family trip to Maui (6 weeks! woo!), it is the flights I am most uncomfortable with. (Travel and I do not agree. Sandy beaches and I, however, I suspect will soon be in love with one another).

But what this got me thinking about was bathroom elitism. When Kale was potty training, I became an expert on finding bathrooms fast, and in determining what stores or shops would let Kale use their private bathroom if we asked politely enough. As any parent who has potty trained knows, at the beginning, when the urge to go happens, you have an absolutely miniature window between feeling the urge and not being able to contain it anymore. Absolutely miniature. Like, probably less than three minutes. You don’t want to set your kids up to fail, right? And I didn’t want to go the Pull-Ups route after 2 years of cloth diapers. I wanted Kale to learn to use the bathroom as naturally as possible.

Public bathrooms around here are generally not bad. Most of the time they are moderately well serviced and easy to find (although, Thrifty Foods, I’m looking at you – your bathroom is ridiculous to get to if you don’t know where it is, and not at all stroller or wheelchair friendly).

The part in Mr. Davies’ story that bothers me the most wasn’t that he was chastised for occupying his toddler. It’s the fact that he was chastised for using an unoccupied first class bathroom but was “only” a business class customer.

Going to the bathroom is something we all do. We all need to eliminate our body’s waste products. When we are little, we don’t understand silly rules like this.

I get so tired of bathrooms with notes that say “out of order” when they really aren’t, simply because the owner doesn’t want to clean it, or “bathrooms only available to customers”, as if me buying a pack of gum is enough to make me not make a mess in the toilet. I know the complaint is vandalism and people who abuse the bathrooms.

As a woman who carried a child and gave birth, I can admit I am not able to hold my bladder as long as I used to. When I need to pee, seriously, DO NOT GET IN MY WAY. NO, SERIOUSLY. I am big enough to admit I have peed my pants more than once since gaining 40 pounds and hauling around a squirming future soccer star on top of my bladder for a number of months. I would say Kale and I have the same window on feeling the need to pee and not being able to wait, so when he speaks up and tells me he needs to go, I am on high alert and will find us a toilet.

I wonder: if more bathrooms were made available to the public, would people vandalize and disrespect them less? We teach Kale that some things just “are” and they are simply no big deal. Certain components of Kale’s life, like getting dressed each day or brushing our teeth, these are things that just happen and they aren’t something to make a fuss about. We downplay things we don’t want him to get worked up about. I wonder if the same could happen for bathrooms? If less bathrooms were shrouded in mystery and elitist fanciness, would people start treating them as no big deal and just a component of life? Would urges to vandalize and mistreat a bathroom abate or perhaps move on to another target?

10 years ago


  1. Not bathroom related but flight related.

    I was 2 when my parents, uncle and I flew to North America (Calgary to be specific) for the first time from Switzerland.

    It was the time you know.. when there were no seat belt laws, my dad could still go skiing with me in his backpack.

    So naturally when we were on the plane and I was tired, they placed me in with the hand luggage. Slept up there the entire flight. Nobody thought it was abnormal hahahaha.

    Now same trip, in Idaho… my parents let me run around naked on a campground and they were almost arrested for that.

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