Saturday, July 31, 2021

Still Life with Robin: Vote for Something That Really Improves Public Life

by Peggy Robin

Voting, as we all should know, is the cornerstone of our democracy, and we should exercise our right whenever we get the chance. When we vote, we become part of the solution, helping to make people’s lives better. That’s not pie-in-the-sky idealism; it's  a hands-on action, a way to get in touch with the nuts-and-bolts - and in the case of the election I’m about to introduce, the very plumbing of our system. What am I going on about? Your chance to vote for the best public bathroom in America!

The election is taking place online. Go to:   

Why am I promoting this election on the Listserv (you might wonder)? Because the more people who are engaged in this topic, the more chance that we will improve one aspect of our society that is woefully neglected. America – let me be frank -- has some of the worst public restrooms in the industrialized world. Far too many of them are badly designed, prone to breakdowns, poorly maintained, and all too often, disgusting.

If you look at the candidates at, you will see what a good public bathroom is, and what those that are not so good could become, with a little effort.  

Only one of the ten candidates is from Washington, DC – and so if you are inclined to support the hometown favorite, that’s fine. But please keep in mind these criteria:

What makes for a good public bathroom?

Accessibility. Must be easy for anyone including wheelchair and walker users, to enter, use the facilities, and exit.

Attractiveness (Outside). The exterior must should be welcoming, even inviting. In other words, the less it looks like a public bathroom, the better.

Attractiveness (Inside). The interior should have a certain style and flair – whether it's an old-fashioned, comfy/homey look, or a high-tech, futuristic look, or something artsy and unique. 

Clarity of signage, layout. It should be clear how to get in, and if there are multiple parts to it (e.g. a family bathroom for all ages and genders; separated facilities by gender), you should not have to guess where you are supposed to go.

Cleanliness. This is so basic, it shouldn’t have to be said.

Necessities. Changing tables, soap dispensers, tampon dispensers, automatic on and off faucets, automatic flush (so you never have to deal with those who forget or don’t both to do so); hand drying (best to give both a towel option and air drying option), toilet paper rolls that are easy to use and keep a large supply on hand.

Noise Reduction. Hand dryers should not sound like a 747 taking off.

Lighting. Needs to be bright enough in front of the mirror to let you notice if you have something stuck between your teeth!

Privacy. The best public bathrooms have floor to ceiling stall doors so you are never exposed. Doors should have simple-to-operate but secure locks, that instantly tell whether the stall is vacant or occupied.

Amenities. Mirrors (full length is good), lounge seating in an anteroom is the ultimate in luxury. Hooks in the stall to keep things off the floor. Some nice extra touches – boxes of tissues and maybe even a flower arrangement or a few nice framed prints on the wall.

I know which of the candidates I think best embodies all of the above…..but on this subject I think I will discreetly stick to a secret ballot!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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