OK, *Now* Explain This

A while back I wrote that I was curious about restaurants and so forth that have single seat toilets but still segregate them by sex. Commentator Scott responded that this was part of the natural order of things, and people would feel very uncomfortable sharing a public toilet with those of the other sex... despite the fact we all do this in our homes, and on trains, and airplanes.

Well, today, I was in such a restaurant and the men's room was occupied. A waiter nearby told me, "Just use the women's room!"

So, they have signs up saying "Men's" and "Women's," even while encouraging patrons to use whichever they want.

Explain that, will you!


  1. Culture and Habit.

    I don't know what exactly but there is something in people that keeps them from changing their behavior. I noticed very well that things you (and maybe all others you know) did a certain way all your life are very hard to change. Even if you know and thought everything through that a different way was better, or at least not worse. You get a strange unpleasant feeling doing it different, at least for the first times..

    With restaurants there is another factor. They want to please customers, if you have such customers who have their habits you usually don't risk losing some just because you change something that doesn't really matter. It might make people subjectively enjoy your restaurant less even though there is no objective reason to do so...

    So it doesn't matter if we do it in trains. The point is we didn't do it in restaurants so far.

    Of course certain breaks with habits/culture might even get you attention and may even attract more people. Yet I doubt that sharing the toilet for women and men is one of them...

    And specifically I think there is even one objective reason in this case. This is not just a thing we do because we did it always this way. Women, I guess, like to have some place for themselves in front of a mirror. Maybe just talking (about men) with other women or doing some make up (and maybe to fart… ;)... They don't want men to be there at such a time I assume. I think men don’t care about this as much as women do.

    So I rather think the reasoning should be the other way around. Why isn’t it in trains and airplanes like in restaurants? It is because the efforts to do that there is much higher than in a restaurant, and therefore people would not chose the airline with separated toilets because tickets would be too expensive compared to airlines that don’t separate them.

    Similar reason at home. It would be too expensive, and secondly you know the people who use that toilet…

    How is it done in the first class of big (luxury) airplanes? Does somebody know that?

    1. "Similar reason at home. It would be too expensive, and secondly you know the people who use that toilet…"


      1) Many houses have at least two bathrooms. You could sex segregate them. Most airplanes have MORE toilets than most NYC restaurants!

      2) I certainly don't know many people who come through my home: plumbers and cable install people and real estate agents and people attending a political fundraiser, etc., and never have I been tempted to sex segregate my bathrooms!

      But I agree habit is part of the explanation. I'm just trying to grasp why the habit persists in the precise form it does. Why, on an airplane with 6 toilets, does Scott feel fine about unisex toilets, but in a restaurant with only 2 toilets this really disturbs him?

    2. Yes, but:

      1) Houses don't have them next to each other, but on different floors mostly. You want a convenient short way to the toilet. Not possible if you assign them for one sex only in most houses. The same will be true in airplanes. Space is very scarce in a plane. You want to serve as many people in need with as few toilets as possible. Assigning those toilets to one sex only reduces efficiency. When I am on a plane, the toilets are almost always in use...

      2) Yes but this are exceptions. I don't have strangers in my house very often..

      My girlfriend likes to watch those shows in which you can watch people looking for houses and flats to buy or rent them. Sometimes I see a bit as well and today there was a guy (the singer of the 80s band camouflage http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXODGahChBM) who looked for a flat for himself his kids and her mother in law.

      One thing he was adamant on was privacy in the bathroom and separate toilets for him and her mother in law...

    3. Space is very scarce in NYC restaurants as well, skylien!

    4. I meant *his* mother in law of course above...

      Never have been in NYC so far. So I can't argue there. Whatever for my point of view it doesn't make that less sense as it does obviously for you..

  2. Anonymous12:50 PM

    I cannot really answer this question but to say that it is merely a habit that simply perpetuates for no logical reason. There are many things like this that don't make any logical sense, but are still a widespread habit (driving and parking habits are a good example). However, since you've mentioned this I cannot stop noticing it when I see it.

  3. You have to understand that in these circumstances the WOMEN sign simply means, "Remember to put the seat down!"


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