No One Has A Right To A Bathroom

If the Obama administration is going to demand toilets be open to all comers, the McDonald’s in Chinatown has some ‘splaining to do.

I had diarrhea in Hamburg, Germany, and I couldn’t find a bathroom. It was 1983. I was 16, touring the city with a friend, and the undercooked eggs and Weisswurst I’d had for breakfast weren’t sitting well. The steins of Krombacher and shots of Korn Schnapps from the night before didn’t help.

I could feel the juices percolating through my abdomen as I walked down the busy street to St. Michael’s, and I knew I was in trouble.

“I need to find a restroom,” I told my German friend, Nicola.

She looked at me with all the compassion of a typical German and told me to hold it.

“But I can’t,” I said. It was the truth. I couldn’t hold it. I had to go. There are just some things in life you can’t control. Beer and egg diarrhea is one of them.

She rolled her eyes and pulled me into a nearby shop. She asked the storekeeper if we could use her restroom. The woman glanced at me, looked me up and down, and shook her head.

“Please … Bitte,” I whined, my eyes watering. Without a hint of mercy, the woman said, “Nein.”

I couldn’t believe it. “No? What do you mean, no? Don’t you see I’m in pain here?”

Nicola grabbed me by the arm and pulled me out the door. I followed, barely able to walk as I squeezed my legs together.

“Don’t shops have public bathrooms in this city?” I asked. Nicola shook her head. “Not many.”

That began one of the longest, most painful days of my life. We went from shop to shop looking for a bathroom, only to be turned away. I felt like a poor version of Mary searching for an inn. Okay, irreverent analogy, but you get the picture.

“Don’t you people have public restrooms?” I asked as I tried to keep up with Nicola marching up the street.

“I don’t know,” Nicola said. “There’s a McDonald’s not far. We’ll go there.”

Thank God for the U.S. of A., I thought to myself. When I saw the golden arches on the horizon, it was like seeing the pearly gates of heaven. I ran toward them, pushing through the crowd. Finally, I made it to the bathroom. Angels sang.

No Bathrooms For You

The rest of the day didn’t get much better, though. We had to keep our tour within running distance of the McDonald’s. It wasn’t until well into the afternoon that I felt better and could venture into other parts of the city.

It was a day I’d never forget. I was reminded of it recently when I visited Chinatown with my husband. We got off the subway on Canal Street and began walking through the crowd of street vendors.

“Want a Rolex?” a man asked, pushing a cheap imitation in my face. “Want a purse?” said a woman with a heavy accent and a Louis Vuitton bag. We just kept walking, enjoying the cool, sunny day along with the hustle and bustle of the city, laughing, holding hands. Then, it happened. I had to use the bathroom.

Here’s a tip. If you ever go to Chinatown, use the bathroom before you get on the subway. Just like in Germany, I went from shop to shop to find a bathroom with no success. At one store, I even offered to buy a bag of creepy-looking fungi just to use the employees’ toilet in the back. Nope. They didn’t go for it.

Desperate and needing to pee (at least it wasn’t diarrhea this time), I looked for the golden arches. They had saved me once before. We soon found the McDonald’s and pressed our way into the crowded restaurant (they sure love McDonald’s in Chinatown). I searched desperately for restroom signs and found them pointing upstairs. I moved to go up and was immediately blocked by a huge African-American man.

“You have to purchase something before you can go upstairs,” he said, looking like bouncer at a night club.

“Are you serious?” I asked. He just stared at me and moved to block my way.

“Please, I really have to go.”

“Not without a purchase,” he said, crossing his arms. Access to a bathroom in Chinatown is serious business. I looked at the long line out the door, and then at my husband. There was no way I could hold it that long. My eyes were turning yellow.

Full of compassion even though I had ruined our pleasant stroll down Canal Street, he took me by the hand and steered me out of the restaurant.

“Come on,” he said. “I’ll take care of you.”

As I concentrated on not wetting myself, he led me through the packed streets, determined to find something. He finally did—an Italian pizza shop on the edge of Chinatown. We went in and saw a bathroom sign behind the cashier.

“Just keep walking, and I’ll order something,” he said. I did just that. No one stopped me. I made it to the restroom and found blessed relief. I’ll be forever grateful for that little Italian restaurant in Chinatown.

Now to the Point

So, why am I telling you this? Because we’ve heard more about bathroom use than we’ve ever wanted to know recently, all because people who are confused about their gender (a.k.a. those who have a mental illness) want to use the public restroom that doesn’t match their actual sex. So, suddenly, “equal” toilet use has become a huge right.

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