Can the wireless web find you a loo? Not yet, as far as I can tell.
In a complete, compact community, you ought to be able to find a restroom promptly, as I’ve said. That’s a requisite of strong communities as basic as—if less morally stirring than—say, the rule of law or the protection of dissent. So it’s discouraging to read yesterday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer report that Seattle’s experimental high-end automatic public toilets have become pit stops for vice rather than, well, just pit stops.
Surely, however, in the era of wireless web, in which overwhelming majorities of northwesterners carry cell phones and majorities of cell phones are equipped for internet access, it should be easier than it’s ever been for ordinary people to find an emptying station within a short walk of wherever they happen to be. Expensive city-built commodes shouldn’t be as necessary, thanks to what we used to call the information superhighway. Right?
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You’d think. But so far, the Internet has made no dent in the find-a-bathroom challenge of Cascadia’s urban life. At least, no dent that I’ve detected. I’ve been looking on and off since my family decided to go without a car seven months ago and, as a result, began spending more time out and about in town.
Granted, bathroom-location is not exactly a crisis for most people, most of the time, and the situation may be improving. The public bathroom supply may have increased, for example, along with the Northwest’s count of coffee shops. (Public bathroom demand, you may be thinking, has probably followed precisely the same trajectory.)
Still, it’s a sign of, well, something that when you’re afoot in the Northwest’s most-walkable neighborhoods, it may be more difficult to find a nearby toilet than to find, say, a thorough history of the toilet. (I just found wikipedia’s in 30 seconds on my Palm Treo, using Google Mobile. When I tried to use Google Local to find a restroom near where I am in downtown Seattle, however, I struck out entirely.)
The toilet-map blackout is almost complete in Cascadia. But don’t blame the good Samaritans at Findatoilet.com, which aims to become a universal source of GPS coordinates for restrooms—all of them located and uploaded by regular people, wiki-style. It currently only pinpoints a few highway rest areas, apparently for lack of participation. (I don’t feel bad; I don’t have a GPS.)
A few other places are starting to close the toilet-map gap. San Francisco has Public Loos, a Google map mash-up, and New York is the proud home of www.nyrestroom.com, complete with locations, photos, and ratings of 252 washrooms so far. (Noted in the New Yorkerhere, with—what would you expect?–tongue-in-cheek superiority.)
Among the scores of software tools available for road warriors sporting Blackberries and the like, I’ve found only one product that promises to tell you where you can pee. It’s Vindigo (tip of the hat to jennifernb, in comments here) an online map for the wireless web. Unfortunately, Vindigo won’t run on my brand of phone, so I can’t say if it delivers.
And so, I’m still waiting, my fingers (legs?) crossed, pining for the killer ap of car-less life: a google for toilets.
Here’s a little “loo trick” I learned from a car-free British friend here in America, which is good for emergencies, but also requires having a dollar or two in your pocket:Remember all those coffee shops you referred to, Alan?Well, since they usually only allow paying costomers to use their toilets, then just go into one of those shops and buy the cheapest thing they offer—like a small cookie or something—and there you go!Or you could go into a McDonalds, or a donut shop, for something even cheaper. . . You get the idea.Of course, one of the better things we could do, here in America, would be to build more subways (like the Tube in London) so that we’d have not only better public transit but also free loos at every station!
This story has captured my attention. Just the other day i was thinking about how difficult it is to find a bathroom in NY cuz it is such a big place. And when you gotta go, you gotta go. But if you dont know where then your just stuck! So when i discovered NYRESTROOM.COM, i realized that finding bathrooms are only a click away! Now i can print out bathroom locatiions and bring it with me. Even better, the site soon will have an application for the iPhone!!! Best idea ever!
On Saturday, September 20, 2008, Dr. Im, owner of VERTICES LLC., along with several Rutgers University/Bloustein students will be doing a survey to update information for NYRestroom.com. The survey will take 2-3 hours and any participants will be credited for their contribution to the project. If you would like to partake in the opportunity, meet at the New Brunswick Train Station before 10am and also bring a digital camera (if you have one), a pen/pencil, and an RU ID.The reality is, We’ve all gotta go, and in a place such as New York City this task can become a hassle. However, with the help of websites like NYRestrooms.com, the task just becomes a lot easier to overcome.