Saturday, October 06, 2007

Pay Toilets

I was visiting with a couple of old friends yesterday and we were talking about payphones and how they are disappearing when suddenly it hit me "Where have all the pay toilets gone?". Beats me, they just left for some reason or other. My friends remembered pay toilets, because they were both old but a 30 year old visiting with us didn't even have a clue about what a pay toilet was. Time for some research about where they went.

I don't think they went anywhere, they just changed the doors. It appears that A campaign by the Committee to end pay toilets in America [better known as CEPTIA] resulted in laws against pay toilets being enacted in many cities and states. In 1973 the first American city to enact a ban was Chicago. Lobbying was also based on the discrimination against women. CEPIA was successful in obtaining bans in Ohio, California,New Jersey, New York, Minnesota and Florida. Only in America could people get together and form a committee to ban pay toilets.

In some cities, during the Middle Ages, there were sellers of public toilets who were equipped with a large cloak and a bucket. For a fee, one could use the bucket while hidden by the cloak so you can see that the idea is not necessarily a new one. It just appears that we were the only ones to outlaw them. In the United Kingdom it is technically permitted to charge for use of toilets, but not for the use of urinals. Pay toilets on the streets may provide urinals free of charge to prevent public urination. Pay toilets never left Europe or Asia. They still have pay toilets in Mexica.

A few US cities are trying to get them back and according to American style they cost $250,000 each. Takes a lot of dimes to pay for one. Thats a lot of poop.

In Philadelphia there is one catch -- a 20-minute time limit. Reading "War and Peace" isn't an option. A digital clock with bright red numbers, resembling those used at basketball games, counts down the time remaining. In this arena, there's no overtime. After 20 minutes the door opens to passersby on East Carson, although recorded messages give ample warning that time is running out.

The floor of the APT, made of aluminum and coated with nonslip vinyl, is hinged in sections like a large conveyor belt. After each use, the floor moves on rollers and is sprayed with disinfectant. At the same time, the toilet bowl turns 180 degrees and also is disinfected. The whole interior is dried and 40 seconds later, it's ready for use again. And you were wondering "how could they possible cost 1/4 of a million dollars each"? The mind wanders. What if everything went haywire while you were, well, you know? A rotating floor, spinning toilet, jet sprays.... A Swedish company has one with glass walls you can see through. But it was thought that some users might be intimidated, worrying that if they could see outside then people could see inside.

New York State outlawed pay toilets in 1975 in response to the charge that such facilities discriminated against women. Women always needed a stall, while men could make do without, opponents argued. "Maintenance is not a big issue, vandalism is not a big issue," Szeto, of the New York test project, says. "The complaint is that some of the toilets are being used for illegal activities -- drug use, prostitution, that kind of stuff -- generally in areas where those activities are already a problem." As in Queens, there is also an aversion in individual neighborhoods. "Everyone thought the toilet is a great idea, but put it in someone else's front yard," said Szeto.


keewee said...

Waaaay back in my childhood, I remember the public toilets in the Square of Palmerston North ( a park in the center of the city) where we had to pay a penny to use the facilities. But there was also a woman in attendance,who kept those toilets and wash basins spotlessly clean throughout the day.

Beth said...

I remember pay toilets being all over, including airports. As a child, I remember crawling under the doors to use them. Ugh! I can't even imagine doing that these days!

Ted said...

Beth and Keewee thanks for the comments. I don't ever remember the cost being less than 10 cents here in the states. I do remember crawling under them to use them. If my Mom gave me a dime for the door, I always had a lot higher use for that dime than putting it in the door especially when it was so easy to slip underneath. Yuck is right but today I don't think I could even fit under the door.

Anonymous said...

I live in California and I was on my way back from Las Vegas when I came across a gas station with pay toilets. I did not think they were legal so I asked the attendent for a token. He said that I must pay. This was on Oct 25th 2009. So legal or not, some places are still charging to take a pee.