Public inconvenience

Tuesday 24th May 2011

SIGN of the times: These Toilets Are Not For Public Use. Are they serious? Why bother having these facilities in the building if nobody is allowed to use them?

There are a number of problems with notices of this ilk.

Surely they can’t be talking about using these toilets in public, as opposed to in private… can they?

(I imagine some gawky youth, of prodigious strength, wrenching the bowl from the floor, carrying it along the corridor and out through the front door in order to pull down his trousers on the Town Hall steps and seat himself in full view of passers-by.)

No. There would have been precedents. It could only be a counter-measure to such behaviour had there been widespread reports of flash mobs or supporters of UK Uncut taking the phrase ‘taking the piss’ too literally.

So we must assume, I think, that these cautionary instructions are for the benefit of those members of the public who are not sure whether or not they are members of the public.

Unfortunately, I have yet to come across any building – in private or public ownership – where there are clear, unmistakeable notices informing us at what point we cease to be members of the public. Logic tells me that invisible lines on the floor aren’t good enough.

On those occasions when I have made enquiries at Enquiries desks regarding such signs, the usually response is along the lines of:

“It’s okay, sir. If you are using the premises, you can use the facilities.”

“And does making an enquiry at this Enquiries desk constitute using the premises?”

“That depends.”

“Can you please tell me what it depends upon?”

“The nature of your enquiry.”

“Well… what if I tell you I am here on business.”

“May I ask the nature of your business, sir?”

“The nature of my business is a call of nature.”

“I’m sorry, sir, that isn’t allowed.”

Meanwhile, the cost of using town centre public toilets has risen sharply: often 20p, sometimes as much as 50p.

That councils have allowed this to happen is, I believe, nothing short of a public disgrace.







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