There’s a Bathroom on the Right
Welcome to Lipstick Librarian Loses It, Wordsmoker’s newest feature, where everyone’s favorite bookworm and civil servant (sorry, Chillbear!) catalogs her occupational woes, wearing little more than a pencil skirt and a stern expression.
[What? -L.L.] [Just go with it. -Ed.]
We have two public restrooms at our library: Restroom A and Restroom B, single-seaters about twenty-five feet square. They used to be regular old “Men” and “Women,” but neither was ADA compliant, so after fifty years, Men’s doorway was widened and became A and Women’s became B. Both are unisex, and marked as such with those little Playskool outlines, and in Braille.
In a largely successful attempt to deter vandalism, both are kept locked; the keys sit on the counter in front of me at the circulation desk. We lose keys all the time, and are usually forced to improvise some form of fob too large to absentmindedly stuff into a purse or pocket, yet small enough for kids to handle. For years they were pieces of wood labeled “Men” and “Women”, better suited to a gas station, which steadily darkened and softened and which I never once touched with my bare hands. Dozens of copies of copies of copies of keys have been attached to rulers, bookends, rubber chickens, and chew toys. Our current set is the simplest yet:
Nine-inch-tall wooden letters, color-coded to match the signs in the hallway and on the restroom doors. (I have since written “BATHROOM KEY” on each one with black Sharpie, to make things even clearer.) The restrooms are only about ten feet apart, but nonetheless I put up a big blue A and a big yellow B, with arrows indicating which is which. There are also big, bright letters on each door, along with smaller arrows above the doorknob, indicating which way to turn the key and open the door.
It starts like this:
“Where’s the bathroom?”
“Back in the hallway; you’ll need one of these keys.”
About half pick up on the subtle clues around them and choose the correct door. The other half . . . well, if I had a nickel for every time I heard one of these, I’d be able to rebuild the entire library with proper, separate facilities for men and women:
“Which one’s the girls?”
“This key doesn’t work.”
“The door’s broken.”
“B is for ‘boys,’ right? Why is the A blue?”
“The key’s stuck.”
Every day I encounter at least three people—across every imaginable demographic—who take a key, try to unlock the wrong door, then, instead of, you know, maybe TRYING THE OTHER FUCKING DOOR, walk all the way back up to my desk to get the other key. I’ll concede a small percentage of these people being both colorblind and illiterate, but they still seem to be lacking the logic and reasoning skills of your average toddler.
Just when I’m fearing for humanity, my brother and six-year-old niece drop by. Niece really needs to go, so she grabs the B and walks down the hallway, and turns right, to the Restroom A. About ten seconds pass, then she reappears, and heads over to B, and, doing a little dance, opens the door with no trouble at all. Smart cookie! I bet she could figure out the copy machine, too.