The bathroom bills that we actually need

Conservative state legislatures around the country have been trying to pass bills that will prevent access to bathrooms based on gender identity, specifically restricting access for trans women. This is hateful, aimed at a tiny minority that is already discriminated against in so many ways. But on my travels over the weekend, I thought of a bathroom bill that would benefit everyone and passing it would be a much better use of everyone’s time.

There used to be a time when I could drive for long distances without having to stop to use the bathroom. I recall on one occasion driving non-stop from Cleveland to Philadelphia, a journey that took about seven hours, without stopping for anything at all. But I was younger then. Those days are long gone and on my trip to Los Angeles and San Diego I found myself having to stop to use the facilities several times.

When on the road, there are three options for bathroom use: the rest areas provided by the state, restaurants, and gas stations. Not all roads have rest areas and sometimes they are out of commission or spaced too far apart. You can usually find restaurants, especially fast food ones, and they used to be my bathrooms of choice but on this trip, because of covid-19, many places that I stopped at were only allowing drive-through or pick up and the restaurant area (including the bathroom) was closed off. That left just the gas stations. The cleanliness of these places is highly variable and there were occasionally signs that said that the restrooms were only for customers, though no one stopped me and asked me to buy something before using it. I suspect that it is because I am not part of a demographic that is automatically viewed with suspicion. Recall the case of the two black men at a Starbucks who had the police called on them when they tried to use the bathroom before ordering something. Eight police officers were called to make the arrest, though video clearly showed that the men were peaceful. Apparently using the restroom without first ordering something is (or at least used to be until this highly publicized case) a violation of Starbucks policy, a policy that I suspect was highly selectively enforced.

Going to the bathroom is a basic biological function and it is odd that we do not guarantee access to one to the general public. Surely it would not be hard to pass a law that requires all gas stations and restaurants to allow anyone to use their facilities. It might add a small extra cost in terms of cleaning the bathrooms and stocking them but that would become part of the routine cost of doing business with the public.

It should be noted that if someone is desperate and stops and goes behind some bushes to relieve themselves in an emergency, they can be arrested and fined or worse. And yet, that is sometimes the only option available to people.


  1. says

    It would actually make sense to ban people from using the bathroom if they were running a temperature or going around unmasked and unvaccinated. There ought to be a law about that.

  2. Myra Greenwood says

    Using a bush to go is not so easy for a woman. I purchased a sheewee for use while hiking and am glad I have it for emergencies on road trips. Ever since I read about the wreck on the SF bay bridge where people were stuck for 4 hours I thought I need my sheewee in the car. At the Bay Bridge traffic jam I read people were getting out of their cars and urinating and the cops were right there giving them tickets for public urination, (which I’m hoping is not a sex offense)? What really should be done is there should be public facilities in needed areas. I haven’t been to all but I suspect other developed countries have them because they are sensible and have governments without the scruge of Republicans trimming necessities.

  3. KeithRB says

    There is another option:
    They tend to be close to the highway with pretty easy access.
    Were you on the 101 or the 5? The 5 (or 99) would have a lot more options.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    Going to the bathroom is a basic biological function and it is odd that we do not guarantee access to one to the general public

    It’s not odd at all. It’s of a piece with a society that doesn’t guarantee access for the general public to healthcare. I think if I were unfortunate enough to live in the US and unable to leave for some reason, I’d want healthcare before I wanted universally accessible bathrooms. Then gun control. Then demilitarised police forces accountable for their actions. And perhaps the US could get around to abolishing slavery and the death penalty, like every civilised country did decades ago.

  5. Matt G says

    My personal story involves the Throgs Neck Bridge, two out of three lanes closed on a Sunday night, pulling off into a construction site, and an empty 907g yogurt container.

  6. Mano Singham says

    KeithRB @#5,

    I was on the 5 going to LA and on the 101 coming back.

    That is a good idea about Walmart.

  7. says

    In Germany they charge you for using the bathrooms. Oh, you get a little voucher you can redeem when buying overpriced snacks. Not redeemable on the overpriced fuel.

  8. says

    Also, since “what about women and girls having penises waved at them if trans women can use the women’s toilets*” is a favourite argument, I see very little from the same people about cis men just pissing wherever they like. I guess I see an average of one dick per week when driving/walking past some dude weeing against a bush. Almost as if it’s not about unexpected and unwanted dicks anyway.

    *How do those people use the toilets anyway? I remember a few occasions when I walked in on people who’d forgotten to lock the door and all I accidentally glimpsed was legs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *