Denise Day Spencer

September 23, 2006

Truth in labeling

Filed under: Random ramblings — denisedayspencer @ 6:53 pm

I’m going to write about bathrooms. Oh, don’t worry. This is not an attempt at scatological humor. I’m talking about confusion in labeling. Public restrooms, that is.

Signs on restroom doors need to be objects we can trust. Sometimes the owner of the establishment tries to get cutesy. One of our favorite Lexington restaurants has “Ladies” on the outside of the ladies’ room as you go in…and “Gentlemen” on the inside of the ladies’ room as you go out–just to kindly freak you out for one fun moment.

Recently in another restaurant I went to the ladies’ room and was met by a man coming out. Before I could even do a double-take at the word on the door, he apologized. It turned out he had been helping his small child in there. As I did my business, the single dad kept sending in his other children to try to help the least one. (“Daddy says you have to wipe her.” “I’m not gonna wipe her!”) Poor tyke. I guess I should have offered to wipe, but I just wanted to get out of there before dad came back.

Sometimes it gets downright weird. Once we were traveling with friends and stopped at a gas station to use the restroom. There were outside entrances. I walked around to the end of the building and saw two doors. One was labeled “Ladies,” the other “Women.” I stood there a moment. I looked around. Was this a “Candid Camera” moment? Tentatively I chose one and went in. When I returned to the car, I told my companions about it. As we all laughed, one of my friends wanted to know, “Well, which one did you choose?” “I must not think I’m much of a lady,” I said, “because I used the ‘Women’s.”

But the real fun starts when there are no labels on the doors at all. At the church where Michael’s been preaching lately, I went looking for a restroom on our first day there. I found two bathrooms in a little hallway, side-by-side. I peeped into first one, then the other. I honestly couldn’t tell which was which. Maybe it didn’t matter; just pick one. So I did. And while I was in there, I heard a male voice next door in the other one. Whew! I made the right choice.

So the next week I went to same room, but this time the seat was up. Oh, dear. Was I in the wrong one the last time? Did some poor guy have to use the ladies’ because I had taken over the mens’? How embarrassing. Maybe I’d better have a closer look.

No urinals in either room; just one toilet each. The first room was quite tidy and neat, but contained no decorations except a plain, wooden-framed mirror over the sink. The other room was more decorative, but still not overtly feminine. There was a basket on the floor, a miniature old-timey school desk in the corner, a teddy bear figurine and a small mirror on the desk.

So which room would you have chosen?

As I washed my hands in the second restroom the second time, I pondered the whole situation. Perhaps I’d been asking the wrong question. Maybe it wasn’t a matter of male vs. female. Maybe it was children vs. grown-ups. Full-sized vs. midgets. Humans vs. hobbits.

Well, if they can’t put signs on the doors, I’m just going to say, “Move over, Bilbo. I’m comin’ in!”



  1. […] responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. 🙂 Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your ownsite. […]

    Pingback by The Boars Head Tavern » Blog Archive » — September 23, 2006 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  2. Denise,

    Thanks for that. As a man it is always a great comfort to walk into a public washroom and see a urinal. You know you’re in the right place. On the other hand there is that panicky moment of uncertainty when no urinal is found. It happened to me last month. I had taken the wrong door. It was clearly labeled so there was no excuse. Just had had a long day of driving and, I guess, I wasn’t seeing straight. Oh well…

    Comment by Richard Campeau — September 23, 2006 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

  3. Jesse once followed a girl who looked like a boy into the bathroom because he didn’t know where the Men’s was.

    Comment by Clay Spencer — September 24, 2006 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

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