Kent Bernhardt: Taking Care of Business

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 8, 2016

People are talking a lot about restrooms these days, and who should go into which one.

I’d like to take the discussion in a slightly different direction by daring to ask the question “What moron designed public restrooms as giant gathering places in the first place?”

I have never enjoyed the public restroom experience. We’re forced to interact with total strangers under the worst of circumstances. Who actually thought that was a good idea?

Men’s rooms are the worst. I’ve seen up to a dozen urinals on one wall with barely a foot of space between them. Someone actually designed that. I’d like to find that guy.

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having a forced conversation with your “next door neighbor” while you’re taking care of business.

“Nice weather we’re having.”

“Uh, yes it is. I can’t wait to get out of here and back into it.”

Women seem less bothered by restroom social time. In fact, they seek out company when it’s time to powder their noses. What’s with that anyway?

I remember one NASCAR driver who was actually asked for an autograph while he was – uh, busy. A fan walked right up to him with a pen and a piece of paper. I’ve had it happen to me.

“Hey, aren’t you that guy from the radio station?”

“Uh, yes, I am. Please don’t tell me how you recognized me.”

“Well, I listen to you all the time. Love your show. I’d like to shake your hand.”

“No, you wouldn’t.”

My high school restrooms were the worst places on earth. They offered absolutely zero privacy. Everything was right out in the open; no stalls anywhere. I don’t know why they bothered to put up a door at the entrance.

I realize nature’s call is a very natural thing, but most of us have the expectation of at least some privacy while we commune with porcelain. And that brings me back to the designers of public restrooms.

I suppose like my need to go, it’s a plumbing issue in a sense. You have all these pipes, some coming in, others going out. In large buildings, it probably seemed logical to gather them all in one place. Hence, you have the origins of the gymnasium style restroom.

They’re large, cavernous social halls where even the faintest of sounds get amplified three hundred times. That only adds to the embarrassment. There are certain sounds not meant to be broadcast to the world.

I’m not a designer, but I do know you can put a wall just about anywhere. Ask Donald Trump.

And if Mr. Trump wants to build walls, he should start in every large restroom in America; giving us all the privacy we crave in the one place we really don’t want company.

It seems to me that a little architectural common sense long ago could’ve saved North Carolina a huge headache today.


Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

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