Civilization is what separates us from the animals, and in a free society people should be able to comport themselves, especially with regard to their personal hygiene needs, without permission from others. But there is an insidious movement encroaching on our freedoms lately, a scourge that threatens the very moral fiber of our culture - the locked “public” restroom.
There was a time when public facilities and retail businesses had public restrooms, and they were open to . . . the public. But in recent years there has been a disturbing trend among local businesses to secure their facilities behind locks and keypad entry systems; the facilities are still “public” in the sense that they are available to anyone, but they are only available to those select few who know “the code.” This code is obtained by conferring with an employee, any employee, to get the code or in some rarer cases, an actual key. Such keys are almost always attached to a sheet of wood or other signage so that your intentions are publicly broadcast.
I understand there are reasons for this increased security; I live in an older section of my city where the demographic is less . . . sophisticated than elsewhere in town. Across town the MOD pizza place has open bathrooms, but at the one nearest my house it’s locked and I have to ask for a code . . . But my girlfriend doesn’t. See, only the men’s room is locked. At PetSmart both are locked, even though it’s not a quarter mile away. I’m not sure what this says about the men who frequent that MOD pizza, or the general clientele of PetSmart, but none of it is good. I don’t doubt that these businesses have had incidents that prompted such measures, but I also don’t care - when you have to ask a stranger for help with your own bodily functions, that’s a sure sign that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Grown adults should not have to ask permission to go potty.