Sunday, September 20, 2009

Viva la difference!

In my many travels, I've been amused at the variety of signs used to tell the genders which bathroom is theirs. I've taken photos of some of the more interesting ones encountered on my journeys.
Here's a classic example from the top floor of the Unirii Mall in Bucharest. It tells English and Romanian speakers that the bathroom is to the left. But for others, they know from the classic images used to convey males and females that the toilets are in the direction of the arrow.

Here's a sign at the airport in Istanbul, in which we learn where the bathroom is, as well as the fact that hoop skirts are back in style:

Here's a bathroom sign at a very old restaurant in Istanbul. If you're wondering which bathroom is yours, just check your head to see if there's a top hat on it. That would indicate you're a man:

Here's a sign from a mall in Bucharest. As in many places of the world, the difference between men and women is that men wear pants and women wear skirts. Both, however, carry briefcases:

From a public restroom in Prague come signs that confirm the pants/skirts dichotomy but add to our knowledge that men and women can be equally exuberant to have found a bathroom:

They're going to lose that smile when they find out that it will cost them each a dollar to use this bathroom. It was at this place where a bathroom attendant even asked me what my official business was in there, since, well, there's a cost difference. I only had to use the cheaper of the two options, but wondered afterwards what would have happened if that changed while I was in there. Would I have to come back out and pay first? Could I pay afterwards? If I snuck out would this really be detected?
In Bucharest, we find a facility for men and one legged women:

At the restaurant "Knights of Malta" in Prague (which I can enthusiastically recommend), we find a classy and quaint take on bathroom signs. Just a little gold paint over those screws would be an improvement, however:

Another interesting find in Prague was underground in one of the metro stops, if memory serves, the main stop nearest the castle complex. Here we finally see the genders divided, not by what they wear, but by how they urinate:

So you look at the two signs. Hmm, I don't ordinarily stand and produce a stream that prominent. I must belong in that other room where the little girl is pissing in a coffee cup.
Also in Prague, at the Castle Complex, you can find bathrooms for armless men and women:

You can't help but wonder why these bathrooms have two peepholes. Are these to look in or out? The whole thing raises more questions than it answers.
Keep in mind that in a traditional Arab society, both men and women wear robes which would go down to the ankles. So the western pants/skirt model is worthless there. Here are bathroom signs I photographed in Doha, Qatar where the facilities are differentiated by distinct clothing patterns on the head and face:
Finally, at the airport in Dusseldorf, I saw a unique sign. This image apparently tells you that, in this bathroom, pretty much anything goes: