A Hoax Pointed at Starbucks

This is really an urban phenomenon. One thing I really hate about going to the city is all the locked bathrooms. We don't get this out in the country. People know that going to the bathroom is something human beings have to do once in a while, and that it can be rather urgent at times. Locks are unwelcome.

All the same, every city I ever go to has locked bathrooms everywhere.

I could use this moment to make one of the comments to which I am personally inclined about how living in the city is a less worthy life, but I won't do that. Instead I'll admit that cities offer some advantages in terms of access to wealth and trade, and the goods that those things can bring -- goods like theaters, orchestras, and the like. You don't find those out in the middle of the country either.

In return, however, you have to live with a lot more indignity. Cities have a high cost of living in terms of taxes, higher rent, and the like. They also cost more of your dignity. If you are going to live in easy proximity to those goods, you're going to pay for the privilege. Part of that cost is that you will be less free, treated with less respect, and subject to many more daily humiliations. That's true for everyone, though of course it is worse if you are poor.


Anonymous said...

At least in most of Europe, you can pay fifty Euro cents to one Euro and use the restrooms if you are not a customer, plus there is a relative abundance of public facilities in the tourist areas. Although that may be changing now.

Apparently the lack of facilities is 1) to deter crime and 2) because when NYC tried to put in public bathrooms, advocates for various disabilities-rights groups demanded features that made them so expensive that the company planning the experiment gave up. Something about demanding an attendant capable of lifting an adult out of a wheelchair and onto the toilet and then back into the chair, among other things...


Anonymous said...



Texan99 said...

I've only ever traveled in France once, half a dozen years ago or so, and noticed that on the rare occasions when you could find a public restroom, you typically had to pay. The cost is negligible, but it means there has to be a clerk available who knows how to take your money and give you your key, so it's delay and trouble.

I've worked in Houston office buildings with the same problem. There, it's not a question of charging; I guess it's all security. The restroom serves the whole floor, not just one office's space, and they must think that security at the main entrance is insufficient to address whatever security problem there is. Again, every time you want to use the restroom you have to find the person who keeps the key, then go turn it in when you're done. It's a lot like the secure titanium-plastic arrangements that minor purchases tend to come in these days, which require a box-cutter and a minute or two of effort to break into before you can deploy your new sink stopper or other civilization-threatening device.

I just finished "Skin in the Game," the new Nicholas Taleb book. He talks about living in Bureaucristan, where the people who make the rules don't have to "eat their own cooking," so to speak. They have a problem to solve, like security, and they're indifferent what it costs to solve, because they're not exposed to the price themselves.

Out here in rural America we don't have locks on the bathrooms. It's just a question of which establishments can get it together to control expenses and access enough to ensure that the bathrooms stay reasonably clean. It's a tourist town, where a surprising number of merchants and even public agencies get it right.

E Hines said...

When I was in Germany, the public restrooms also included the shoulder of the road. Just face away from the traffic. And if you were bellied up to the urinal an indoor public restroom, say in a gasthaus, when the putzfrau's time came to mop the floor, clean the restroom counters, etc, in she came and did her job. Just spread your feet a bit so she can run her mop between them to get that part of the floor, too.

'Course, that was a few years ago, and things might have changed since. On the other hand, that level of restroom security also was during the then-active terrorist bombings by gangs like the RAF and its Baader-Meinhof parent. And a number of others.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I would describe the situation in China, but I fear to do so in polite company.

james said...

OK, here's a model.

The more tightly packed together people are, the less elbow-room, in every sense, they have. A city-dweller will need either more courtesy (some evidence suggests this isn't invariably the case), or more rules and laws.

I could burn my leaves in the country without harming anybody, but where I actually live that would shroud several houses in smoke, and in the downtown area I'd be statistically certain to be afflicting somebody who has emphysema.

Grim said...

Well, as Conan says in “Tower of the Elephant,” civilized men are typically more discourteous because they think they can get away with it without someone putting an axe in their head. So maybe ‘either/or’ works in theory, but in practice you get more rules and laws to protect the rude on top of the more rules and laws to control the behavior.

james said...

There are honor-based groups in some cities whose cultures, if not courteous by standards I recognized, are very alive to discourtesy, or at least disrespect.

I wonder what their rules for courtesy are.

Tom said...

Actually, I've never noticed locked restrooms in Oklahoma City, the biggest city in my state. Also, they don't seem that different in terms o courtesy.

What bugs me is that public libraries now apparently require armed security or they get taken over by homeless folks.

jaed said...

One thing about Starbuckses (and doubtless similar places) in areas that get a lot of foot traffic is that people use the restrooms to shoot up. In my experience, this is true even in fairly nice neighborhoods (thinking in particular of one Starbucks near me, in a small upscale city shopping district).

It doesn't seem to happen in suburban strip malls and other locations that you generally get to by car. But if it's on a street with a lot of pedestrians it's an issue. And I suspect it's a lot of why these places tend to lock the bathrooms.

douglas said...

Yes, it's the druggies, and the homeless will come in and sponge bathe in the sink- occupying the restroom for prolonged periods, which is problematic now that access codes have made single-occupant public restrooms the norm. Starbucks will regret this decision, as they become oases for the homeless and normal people go elsewhere for their coffee.

Starbucks, in being kind to the cruel (or at least the impolite), will be cruel to the kind.

It's typical of the left to think the choice is between a good and a bad choice, and not between two less-than-ideal choices, but one worse than the other.