There was a time when going to the bathroom was a pretty simple and uncontroversial process.
And yes, I will use the term bathroom. When they put comfy sofas in there, it can be a "rest" room. But wait, you don't take baths in there, either, hopefully.
Lavatory sounds like a place where scientists are discovering something. In England it's a "loo," in Scotland "bog," in Canada "washroom," elsewhere "powder room" or WC (water closet). Use those here, and people won't have a clue what you're looking for.
I'm sure it's not politically correct to call it a "john," either. I suppose there is a vast support group somewhere for sensitive guys traumatized because they share their name with port-a-pottys.
I think when I was little my parents called the family facilities "the oval office." Mom was not a fan of Dick Nixon, apparently. To this day, when I hear a political debate, I'm suddenly moved to run for the toilet.
Once upon a time, there were doors marked "men" and "women" on public bathrooms, and everybody more or less knew where they were supposed to go, to, well, "go."
A while back, someone decided that was discriminatory against people who don't speak the language (though if you were going to another country, isn't "bathroom" the first translation you would look up?)
So then, we had politically correct symbols. A little stick Flat Stanley and a little stick woman shaped like a triangle. What is that - a poodle skirt? A kilt? A ballet tutu? Is it a bathroom intended for the fashion-challenged?
I've seen places use the international male and female symbols, and of course, country bars insist on something like "buckaroos" and "cowgirls." (Or at Outback Steakhouses, "Blokes" and "Sheilas".)
Personally, I think symbols of a nut and bolt would do the trick. If you couldn't figure that out, you shouldn't be out of the house.
Now, things have become even more confusing.
In addition to men's and women's, you have "family bathrooms" with four two little stick figures added - which I think means not that the whole family must relieve itself as a unit, but that there's a diaper changing station there.
There's also the disability-accessible restroom. And the unisex restroom (generally in places where there is room for only one) where they just put every symbol they can think of on the door and add a good lock.
Some are fitted with handy accessories (like machines full of condoms and gum, products chewers will want to take care not to confuse.) There's something wrong with people who go to a bathroom to do their shopping.
Bathrooms also used to have a roll of toilet paper. To save on janitor pay, someone invented the satanic devices that enclose the paper and supposedly feed down a new roll when needed. Of course, the loose edge always sticks to the roll, so, you break your fingers trying desperately to get up in there to coax some TP down. And when you do, no matter how slow and careful you go, it rips and you're always left with a useless third of a square of single-ply.
Even the creativity has gone out of bathrooms. At the local college, there's scarcely a graffiti drawing or poem to be seen on the wall. I guess everybody is busy staring at their cell phone as they go number two - think about that next time you're having a conversation with someone and it you hear a little echo effect.
The likelihood of witnessing disturbing things in a public restroom increased exponentially with the proximity of alcohol service, I notice.
Somehow, the worst bathrooms are ones in public parks. You would think people would be all green and fuzzy about keeping the facilities in the great outdoors pristine, but no, give people a burrito and a park restroom and they turn into a pack of rouge grizzleys marking their territory in the most foul ways. Use a park bathroom only if you are on fire or being chased by zombies.
Bathrooms are in the headlines this week, as 400,000 people are pledging to boycott Target for deciding to allow transgender people to use whichever gender room they identify with. And thousands of others are protesting legislation down south that would require transgender people to use the restroom that, lets say, matches their original equipment.
I get both arguments. Advertising that men can enter a store women's restroom is asking for trouble. Transgender people are not predators, but there is legitimate concern that predators will take advantage. It's a scary world.
And I have friends who are transgender, and hearing legislators spout hate and discrimination in the guise of public safety isn't going to improve the situation either.
Large public places - schools, campuses, hospitals, malls, airports, might be best served to convert some spaces to unisex restrooms and locker rooms. They could be used by the trans community, and any of the rest of us who prefer to go to the restroom alone rather than chance the awkward encounter with the dreaded "chatter" at the next stall or urinal.
Bathrooms aren't as simple as they used to be. Instead of one, or two, you need five or six different configurations at a store now to satisfy all your customers.
News flash - you're not going to make everyone happy when it's time to go crappy. Keep it safe and sane, and remember, we all have something in common. And a spritz of Glade after that something doesn't hurt.