Sunday, May 3, 2009

On the Outside Looking In

Speaking of glass-walled bathrooms, I had probably the most uncomfortable bathroom experience of my life last night. And I've been in some pretty uncomfortable bathrooms.

In case you did not know, it was this blogger's birthday recently, and a friend of mine took me out to dinner and dancing in San Francisco. We went to a fairly small club/lounge, called Shine, where it was also, apparently someone else's birthday.

The women's bathroom there was nice. Dim light, high ceiling, light walls and a dark velvet drape framing the wall-sized mirror. (The door, by the way, locked).

Contrast that with the men's bathroom. I stepped in at one point, because there was a big line for the women's room, due to fact that the birthday boy's party showed up all at once, and all females seemed to be in need of a restroom all at once.

The men's room was lit with a deep red glow, much like a darkroom. That was about the only decor. There was a toilet in the far corner, and opposite that, a very low mounted urinal. But coming from the wall just to my right, there was another source of light - a blurry window that looked out onto the back section of the club. It was blurry because it was, in fact, a one-way mirror.

And whereas earlier, there had been very few people present, suddenly, there was a crowd of people standing around outside the room, in full view of me, but not seemingly conscious of my looking at them. Add to that the fact that the door did not seem to want to close or lock, and suddenly I was feeling very exposed.

I am sure that some people really like the one-way mirror effect. One male reviewer on called it a "nice bonus." But I can't tell you how disconcerting it was for me. I knew that the people outside couldn't see me, and yet, I could see them, which was bad enough. And at one point, I saw a guy staring straight into the mirror, checking himself out, I guess. He seemed to be looking right at me. But then he moved his eyes up and away and turned back to his buddies, apparently clueless as to what was behind the glass.

Maybe I was supposed to find this exciting. I found it unnerving.

So let's recap.

Women's bathroom: soft lighting, light colors, plush curtains, big mirror, tasteful decor, and a door that locks.

Men's bathroom: porn star lighting, minimal decor, vague odor of piss, weird voyeristic window, and a door that doesn't lock, or even close.

Clearly, they were appealing to the different sensibilities of men and women, and I think they nailed them, pretty much right on the heads. Women like different things in a bathroom, one of those being privacy. Guys, it seems, like that hunted, "I can see you, but you can't see me" feeling. So each one gets what they want.

I'd say that's equality for the sexes.

Still, I think I'll wait for the Ladies' room.

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