Opinion

Never underestimate the value of nice toilets

Enough already about the governor’s race. Let’s talk about something a little closer to home.

Like should downtown public restrooms be kept clean and well-maintained?

No kidding. When the Port Orchard City Council met the other day to discuss how to spend the $110,000 anticipated in revenue from the hotel-motel tax this year, the importance of clean public restrooms was one of the dozen or so items up for financing.

It wasn’t so much whether clean restrooms are better than dirty ones, but how important this was to the tourist industry.

That’s what the hotel-motel tax is for. Anybody who stays overnight in a hotel or motel pays it with the proceeds intended to make you want to come back and stay again and again.

The city wanted $2,500 to make sure the three downtown public restrooms were kept shipshape and was surprised to find that at the bottom of the list compiled by an advisory committee.

Deemed more important were such things as the Concerts by the Bay, the Fathoms o’Fun festival, the Sidney Museum and Arts, Farmers Market, etc.

“Most people recognize that a memorable thing to tourists is the quality and conditions of the restrooms, particularly to the ladies,” said City Councilman Bob Geiger in arguing for it. “If they have to come to something that is unpleasant for them, they might not return.”

Ah, they should have called on me, an experienced traveler who can tell you about the restrooms from Stockholm to Paris to Cairo to Hong Kong and places in between.

On the first trip my husband and I made overseas, I wrote letters along the way to my fellow staffers on the newspaper by typing them on the local toilet paper, in the places where they had toilet paper. Most of it resembled light plywood. We were always advised to bring our own.

I got used to using toilets in China where you stand over a hole in the floor, or sit on a board with a hole cut in it and a stream of water rushing by underneath, removing your deposit.

I learned not to drink beer at lunch after some wild rides heading for a hotel that was too far away and arriving with set jaws and crossed legs, pleading to be led to the nearest toilet, and being pushed into an elevator that made a glacier look like it was running the four-minute mile.

My most memorable experience, however, was at the Tel Aviv Airport, where our group was to board a special plane for Cairo run by Egypt because the Egyptians didn’t want their national airline “contaminated” by having Jews ride on it.

About 15 minutes before boarding, I decided to make a last run to the restroom. There I entered a booth and shut the door which, to my horror, locked on me. And I couldn’t unlock it. I’ve got to get out of here, I shouted to the attendant. “Madam,” she said, “turn the lock to the left.” I turned it to the left. I turned it to the right, I turned it straight up and down. I tried to break it off. I couldn’t get out. Time was going by.

I couldn’t crawl under the door, it was only six inches from the floor. I couldn’t go over the top. It was too high for me. By now, there was a bunch of women standing outside the door. I hollered for a chair. They passed a stool over the top to me but I still couldn’t get high enough to crawl over the top. “Get me another stool,” I said, but the women scattered to go about their own business.

Finally, I stood on the stool and wrenched away at the door like King Kong breaking out of his chains until I broke the lock loose. As I fled, the attendant said, “Come back and I’ll show you how to work the lock.“

“Forget it,” I said, “I am NEVER coming here again. The next time I have to go, I’ll use the bushes.”

My companions were already aboard the plane but I got no sympathy when I told them what happened. “Adele,” they said, “you’ll do anything for a story.”

Oh, the Port Orchard bathrooms? The vote was unanimous to pay the $2,500. Good show.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA, 98340.

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