Top 5 Tips on How to Navigate the World of the Public Restroom

Yes, this toilet really is made from gold. No, they won't let your broke-ass near it.

Public restroom. The phrase has an antiquated ring to it like “pay phone,” or “fax machine.” But just like those two seemingly outdated inventions, the public restroom still has its time, its place, and its occasionally urgently-needed purpose.

Anyone who’s ever been on tour, or an extended road trip of any kind, has become more familiar than desired with the public facilities. I’m not going to lie to you—it’s not a happening scene. But there are certain things you can do to enhance the experience that, believe you me, will brighten your day quite a bit.

The inevitable solution is to use the restrooms where you, as itinerant traveler, are not wanted or technically allowed. Making this subtle shift from public to pseudo-private restroom could likely be your saving grace on a long trip across this great land of ours, and beyond.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Navigating the World of the Public Restroom:

1. Look presentable.

Though you may be in a state of temporary homelessness, you have to be sure not to radiate that. If you can’t help but appear in shambles, own it—don’t hide the shabbiness, showcase it. Messy and embarrassed may read as trouble, but messy and confident reads as eccentric, which can always be misconstrued as moneyed and desirable.

2. Never seem to be in a hurry.

This is always the dead giveaway to any hustle: acting like you don’t want to be there. Relax, have a look around. Don’t take your sweet time, but don’t rush either. Strike a delicate balance: on one hand you want to seem to belong and appreciate the atmosphere, but you also want to maintain a been-there-done-that attitude. As a paying customer, you would already know the place like the back of your hand, so it’s no big deal.

3. Aim for hotels, especially boutique hotels.

Hotels are the standard-bearer of temporary living. They should be the ramblin’ man’s bread & butter. And if you play your cards right, you’ll come upon a fancy one. In a fine hotel you can find that seemingly unobtainable element in travel: a moment’s solitude. Floor-to-ceiling doors, in-house hi-fi systems quietly playing Radiohead’s “Kid A,” gentle aromas. Yes, friends, this is the ultimate antidote to gas stations and bars. If you stumble upon a nice hotel without a moat outside, step right in. You shan’t regret it.

4. No questions.

You have to walk in like you own the place, this is a top priority. If your hand is forced and you absolutely have to ask permission, fine—out of the gates, be ridiculously polite. This could potentially separate you from the non-paying “riff-raff” they’re supposedly aiming to keep off the premises. If they don’t admit you, ask again. Insulting their policy is always a good idea, as it brazenly encourages a sense of empathy (If you prick me, do I not bleed? If I drink a liter of Arrowhead water, must I not use the men’s room?).

5. Face traffic & have a lookout.

If you’ve been turned away by every indoor establishment you came in contact with, then it’s time to explore the Great Outdoors. And while a crowded city won’t have much in the way of woods to hide in, there will always be a nearby alley. Just be sure to have a friend watching out for you and if you need to do it on a functioning street, I’d suggest facing traffic. This way, you’ll know what’s coming. Always stay one step ahead.

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One Comment

  1. Lauren Quinn says:

    I’ve totally employed the hotel lobby restroom technique in foreign countries. Works like a charm.

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