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Airport bathrooms at the dinner table

We’re having dinner with the family over the holidays. After a couple bottles of wine, the conversation quickly devolves into potty talk – literally a discussion about toilets. We got into public toilets, and then more concretely, we really dug into toilets at the airport. Not only did I learn that I have been placing the toilet seat cover on the toilet wrong (my entire life!) but we came up with several design modifications that would aid the weary traveler and his or her bio needs.

This is mostly based on the majority of public restrooms we’ve encountered in the US.

1. Make the doors open outwards. The door on many public toilets opens inwards. Trying to get in the airport bathroom stall, I squeeze myself, my backpack and maybe another wheely carry-on through the door. I pivot and stretch so that I can close the door behind my backpack. Why? It doesn’t need to be like this. Often there’s a ton of space between the stalls and sinks (like 5-20 ft). Just let us push the door out. (*The only reason I can see to open inwards is in the event of a lock failure. It would be unfortunate for the door to accidentally swing outward before you’re done.)

2. Move the hook so that it doesn’t align with the lock. Let’s revisit lock failure for a moment. For some reason, no matter what purse, bag, or backpack you want to hook onto the bathroom door, the bottom of this bag will always inevitably unlatch that janky sliding lock that barely latches the door shut. Even the circular-styled lock that you slide closed with your index finger is likely to come undone while juggling your belongings in the stall.

3. Close the gap. I’m thinking specifically of those freestanding metal restroom partitions whose doors and walls don’t meet the floor or ceiling. You know, the ones where the door seems to float independently of the frame. If you have several of those stalls next to each other, depending on how many are locked or not, the gap between the door and the frame widens or narrows. Everyone politely pretends not to be able to see each other sitting on the toilet. But it’s a lie. We can all see you.

4. Make real, usable shelving or don’t. The metal flap attached to the wall is neither here nor there. It’s about 18 inches long, 8 inches wide at the hinge, and gently tapers to a rounded end. You know, the one that folds down across your face when you’re sitting. None of us could figure out what that’s for. “Oh good, let me just place my single brick, my one encyclopedia volume, my squirmy baby down here,” the weary traveler sighs with content. No. It is never the right size, and it needs a lot of weight to stay horizontal. Anything that I might want to put there for a second, like oh, my plane ticket, passport, magazine, tampon etc. is going to fly off as soon as I place it there and let go.

5. Dry and clean more often. This is the most obvious and varies a ton I’m sure between times of day, seasons, employee schedules, policy at different airports. The only good part is the Airblade. Please see my previous post about the wonders of the Dyson Airblade.

Oh, and none of us kids at this dinner conversation about toilets have babies or children of our own, and it’s been about twenty years since my parents had to deal with babies in bathrooms. I’m sure having to change a diaper in an airport bathroom is equivalent to…I don’t know, every unpleasant or precarious equivalent I could think of: getting stuck in a septic tank (true story), tightrope walking over a cesspool, eating off the floor in a McDonalds, all seemed less awful than changing a diaper in an airport bathroom.

Image found on The Toilet Book – way more than you ever wanted to know about toilets.

Keep the dinner conversation going. We welcome other suggestions and design improvements.

7 thoughts on “Airport bathrooms at the dinner table

  1. Cara and I have both also had some bad experiences with the location of the change tables. Some are in the handicapped stall, which is always popular, presumably due to its spaciousness. And, some are located in a strange zone between the sinks and where people dry their hands… or, near the exit/entry choke-point. Either way, you’re in the way. Never mind that most male restrooms lack a change table.

    1. I’ve always wondered about that! About whether there were changing tables in the men’s room. I’m sure you could write a whole critique on changing tables themselves, let alone their location.

  2. I need to share. sorry in advance for my lengthy comment. SJC airport, Terminal C, there was a bathroom that made me wonder why they couldn’t all be that way. They didn’t handle all the issues you mentioned and the airport was pretty empty so maybe it only felt luxurious for the moment. but hey, I was ecstatic post-bathroom experience. The stalls were wider — the door opened into a mini-corridor like space to the SIDE of the toilet! hurrah! It was so incredibly easy to get in and maneuver and arrange my stuff. Nice hinges on the doors (I think they were really long) and stall dividers nearly touching the ground made me feel like I really was in my own private space. did I mention natural light? They also had a REAL shelf and thoughtfully placed. All in all, it was the first time that I left an airport bathroom feeling happy and clean! I’ve been wanting to share this with people who care for so long. Thanks.

    1. That sounds incredible! Is Terminal C the new one? I haven’t been to SJC in a while, is it weird to go check it out if I don’t actually need to go to the airport? That’s excellent that somebody actually paid attention to airport bathroom design. Thanks for sharing!

      1. Actually, do you remember when it was just Terminals A and C? It was probably more than a few years ago. I think it has been converted into Terminal B? I know, weird… but it was a really nice bathroom in the really nondescript “portable” airport building. I’m not sure if it still exists. Maybe some architect felt bad about the crappy airport design and decided to make the bathroom into an oasis.

  3. This is a pretty excellent summary of our convo. Whilest b-dog was driving I read him aloud this post and he seemed to have a lot of opinions on the matter.

    First, Brian seems to think you have to have the doors open inward so that they don’t hit people. This includes most interior doors though we discussed it does not include exterior doors in public places because of fire codes. He says if we change this inward door issue there is nothing sacred because this has stayed a standard for many moons.

    In regards to the gap, the wise Brian says he has seen a quick fix some places- a rubber strip that is connected to the door therefore is bendable, bending with the door as it opens and covering the gap when closed.

    He did mention maybe you have to have gaps as a precautionary measure so cops can make sure u are not doing anything illegal like drugs. (I think he took this one too far.)

    I’m not sure how trustworthy his opinion is though because this is coming from a person who would rather diarrhea out of his mouth than step foot in a public bathroom stall.

    Nothing like toilets to start an intense discussion…again!

    1. haha! I knew someone was going to get me on the inward doors. But I’m stickin’ to my guns! I will take the rubber strip, however, as a temporary, albeit ugly, improvement until a remodel happens.

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