Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Wrong Room"

There must be something in the air. Though I’m probably not the one to talk. A situation I shall explain in due time.

We come into a restaurant. Dr. M is shown to our table, while I avail myself of the Men’s Room. I open the door, and I step inside, where I am greeted by a thirtyish or so woman, standing casually by of the sink.

Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes in uncomfortable situations, my ears seem to clog up, and I can’t hear what people are saying to me. That’s exactly what happened here.

The woman in the Men’s Room was speaking over a cascading faucet. That and my natural discomfort impeded my ability to decipher her words. I did, however, through her tone of voice, determine her gist. It was not apologetic, or playful. Nor did it indicate that something unusual was taking place. What I sensed, instead, was a dead-voiced, slightly irritated “Get over it!” inflection.

Wonderful, I think. Another cultural “adjustment” I’m required to accept without question – Women in the Men’s Room. This was the inevitable next step, I suppose, after making peace with the Daddies bringing their little girls in there.

“It’s okay. Zoe won’t look.”

I understand the necessity of that intrusion. Where else can he take her? Certainly not the Ladies’ Room.

“Hi. I’m not a sex offender. I’m just bringing Amanda in here to urinate.”

Of course, mother’s can bring their little boys in there, the consequences be damned.

“Oh! Look at his darling little penis!”

Call a therapist, and book the next fifty years.

Feeling indignation over finding a female where a lifetime of experience had led me to expect only men was not an option for me, and I will now tell you why. It is not because I am “modern.” (You probably knew that already.) And it’s not because I’m easygoing about such things. (You most likely ascertained that as well.)

Why I lack moral standing in this matter…


…is because twice in the past three weeks, I have found himself accidentally in the Ladies’ Room. Let me repeat the word: Accidentally.

Though I’m aware that the words “twice in the past three weeks” do throw the word “accidentally” into understandable question.

I don’t know what happened. Maybe my diminishing testosterone has driven me precariously towards the middle, and they now both seem like reasonable alternatives.

More likely – I hope – is this excuse. And it’s not made up. You can check out the washroom doors at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica – the scene of my first mistaken venue selection – and judge for yourselves.

There were no designating words marking the adjacent “facilities”, only two line-painted caricatures, rendered in a Greek or, perhaps, Roman motif. It was a “head and shoulders” arrangement – over-the-shoulder togas, curly, swirly coiffures, with an accessorizing headband. I swear to you, the two drawings were virtually indistinguishable – the hairstyle of the “Ladies’” version swirled maybe one tier higher, but that’s it. Otherwise, they looked exactly the same.

The appropriate selection here was pretty much a fifty-fifty proposition. You open the door, and if there’s a urinal in there, you’re got it!

Without veering unnecessarily into tastelessness, I will acknowledge that I am more of a “stall person” than a “stand and deliver” kind of a guy. I prefer the privacy a stall offers. Plus, with the advancing years, the “process” seems to take longer. The last thing I need is some stranger waiting for the urinal, going,

“Come. ON!”

For a “stall person”, the distinction between the dual bathroom alternatives is zero. Having misread the entry signals, you make a beeline for an available stall, and you do not realize your mistake until you emerge and find a room populated by females.

And by then, it’s too late to do anything about it.

Trust me, there is nothing “Call SVU!” about this misjudgment, unless you’re a man who’s turned on by the sight of fully-dressed women washing their hands. A quick “Oops, sorry” and you’re out the door. Still, all things being equal, you are better off picking the right place.

There is only a problem when there are two choices. I have no difficulty with “unisex bathrooms”, because they are, in practice, not really unisex. “Unisex bathrooms” just mean, “One sex at a time.” It’s not like we all pile in there and it’s,

“Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!”

If there’s any ameliorating plea in this commentary, it’s for enhanced clarity in the signage. No more androgynous artwork. Maybe go back to “Gentlemen” and “Ladies” rather of “Men” and “Women.” I say this, understanding that “Ladies”, for some, has a patronizing connotation:

“Ladies, please! We recognize your passion, but female suffrage is simply out of the question!”

The thing is that “Ladies” looks less like “Men” than “Women” does. “Women’s” got the same letters in it as “Men” does, it’s just two letters longer – the “Wo” section. When there’s some biological urgency involved, the discrepancy is simply easier to miss.

I will not pretend what I did was a political statement, or an impulsive gesture of impatience, as was likely with the woman I discovered in the Men’s Room. But I stand firm in asserting it was not premeditated.

I simply made a mistake. Twice. In three weeks.

Man! You put me on that jury, and I’m sending myself away!


Rafael Enizirs said...

Doesn't repetition constitute a pattern of behavior?

Mac said...

Earl, I truly believe you made no conscious decision to enter the women's bathroom.
Your subconscious on the other hand...

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; I've worked at many campuses where the architects have "played cute" with the bathrooms. For example, two buildings that have mirror image facades are also mirrored inside such that the bathrooms are switched, or buildings where the bathrooms swap sides as the floors change. Either case has caused the inattentive to blunder into what they thought was the right bathroom. And don't get me started on the Triangle and the Circle.


Anonymous said...

Little girls in the men's room and little boys in the ladies room is one thing. They're just kids so nothing to get too upset over.

But adults in the other restroom is totally different and not acceptable.