Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rex Theater

1602 East Carson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Grade: D

While I'm feeling up to visiting painful Super Bowl memories, I might as well get around to reviewing the restroom of the establishment at which I watched the game. The Rex really was a pretty good venue for this event, despite the awful "sports rock" band that for some reason played beforehand and made us miss the pre-game Terry Bradshaw/Ben Roethlisberger  interview (and whose front man then had the gall to walk around shoving their CD in our faces, apparently feeling that their timeless performance warranted a record sale or two). Despite the disappointing outcome, it was an exciting game throughout, during which I of course enjoyed several bottles of IC Light. As a result, I felt compelled to pay multiple visits to the bathroom.

The first thing one sees as approaching the men's room seems to hint at promising, if kitschy, decor:

But alas, there is no such fun to be had within the facilities themselves. The walls are bright read and metallic colors, which is great for displaying the relatively sparse yet uncreative graffiti. The seat of one toilet was still lined with toilet paper from whoever had used it last, and the toilet itself either had not been flushed or was unable to flush. The hand dryer was non-functioning, and while it is clear that the proprietors tried to make up for this by stocking the place with paper towels - I counted five loose rolls, in addition to the one in the wall-mounted holder - the fact that these were placed on the countertop next to the sinks means that the rolls were soaked through and utterly useless in terms of hand-drying capabilities.

Undoubtedly, the most interesting aspect of this restroom was that both urinals were filled with ice cubes.  Chris (author of a recent PTDB guest post about Consol Energy Center) pointed out two things about this strange phenomenon: 1) urinating on the ice cubes at such a close range yielded an immediate misting effect, which patrons may have - though probably would not have - found pleasing, and 2) the presence of said foreign objects caused an undesirable splash back upon being sprayed. Ultimately, we could find no positive side to the ice cubes.

Goldstein Auditorium, Top Floor, Schine Student Center

303 University Pl, Syracuse, NY 13210
Grade: C+

I'm going to do something I generally don't do here - I am going to give the Schine Student Center the benefit of the doubt. This is a generally average men's room, albeit equipped with automatic toilet, urinals and paper towel dispenser. And despite the disarray in the images below - paper towels and toilet paper on the floor, paper towels in one of the urinals - one gets the feeling that there are clean facilities buried beneath it all.

This is where the benefit of the doubt comes in. I viewed the restroom around 9:30pm on a Saturday evening, which is undoubtedly well past the working hours of whoever is responsible for cleaning it. More importantly, though, is that the occasion of my visit to the Goldstein Auditorium was to take in a Diplo DJ set. Possibly as a direct result of said festivities, while approaching the restroom I observed a group of rather intoxicated students huddled around a substantially more intoxicated student, who had taken it upon herself to fall over. Now, I can't blame these kids for partying pretty hard during a live performance by the man who is partially responsible for this album...

...but I certainly can understand why the restrooms would be slightly messier than usual given the circumstances. Given a proper cleaning (which I am assuming it receives regularly, considering the overall great condition of the bathroom), this could be a comfortable, out-of-the-way place to relieve oneself.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

La Taqueria

409 South Clinton Street, Syracuse, NY 13202-1240
Grade: B

Here is a nice little bathroom. It has a few minor decorative touches, including patterned wall tiles and some floral paintings that look somewhat like they belong on a grandmother's sweatshirt, and was very clean given how packed the establishment was during my visit. There is a strangely large number of doors -- there are two in addition to the entrance -- but they are painted a pleasant violet color and do not detract from the setting at all. The paper towel dispenser provides hands-free operation, which is always convenient.

There are really only two drawbacks here. First of all, this is a unisex bathroom and it is the only one in the restaurant. I could see this causing problems during their busier hours. Second, this is not the restroom to choose if you value peace and quiet while accomplishing your business. It is directly off of the dining room, and therefore very noisy (again, during peak hours).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dairy Queen, South Side

1223 East Carson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203-1262
Grade: D+

While the burger I ate at this Dairy Queen was a delicious pre-Super Bowl snack that gave me the energy to scream at the top of my lungs and drink a bunch of beers during the game, the establishment's dungeon-like men's room should have foreshadowed the things to come (Steelers :'( ). 

The restroom requires a key for access. In my experience, facilities that require the use of a key tend be those in which a person might feel they could go undiscovered for some time while a) sleeping, or b) partaking of illegal narcotics. While this is not necessarily the shadiest bathroom I have ever seen, it is located beneath the establishment and well out of the way of most customer and employee traffic. It would not be too much of a stretch to envision either of the activities listed above taking place here. Hence the key, I suppose.

Upon my viewing, the restroom seemed to have been cleaned somewhat recently. The toilet water, at least, still displayed the neon blue tint of bowl cleaner. But no amount of cleaning could salvage what is such a fundamentally dank and depressing restroom. It was cold. Everything is manually operated. The room is rather large but contains very little, lending to a strange feeling of exposure while seated on the toilet. There is no mirror, for crying out loud.

And back to the key. The key is used to access a door that leads into a corridor, off of which two new corridors branch and lead to the men's and women's rooms. But the door into the men's room itself does not lock. And as there are separate restrooms for the genders, I am led to believe that there is more than one key to access the restroom corridor. Anyone with another key in hand -- an employee, another customer, whoever -- could accidentally walk in on you sitting on the can. And you can't do anything about it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Acacia Club (Scottish Rite)

348 Market St, Williamsport, PA 17701-6315
Grade: C

Given the overall elegance of the Acacia Club/Scottish Rite's interior, the men's room does come across as a bit of a letdown. There simply is not anything here to raise the facilities above those commonly found in fast food restaurants and gas stations. The wall and floor tiles are standard issue, and everything -- from the urinals to the soap dispenser -- is manually operated. The paper towel dispenser, though bland and even a little worse for the wear (with a somewhat loose lever), carries the misleadingly awesome name of "MAX2000." 

Extra rolls of toilet paper are perched precariously above the toilet bowls, and while I appreciate having the extra TP on hand, there does seem to be a fairly large risk of these being accidentally knocked into the water below. If you are concerned about the availability of toilet paper, why not go the extra mile and install a second toilet paper roll holder in each stall?

I also encountered some confusion while attempting to enter the restroom in the first place. While the door does not lock, the door knob also does not turn and the door itself is simply pulled or pushed to be opened. However, since the doorknob does not turn, it lends the illusion that the restroom is locked and that one must wait in the hallway outside for the facilities to become unoccupied. Was my face red when, several minutes later, a gentleman (obviously familiar with the premises) walked past me and simply pushed his way on through.

Though this may seem like a lot of criticism, this really is a perfectly clean, average public restroom that should serve any man just fine. The small negative details tend to jump out in bathrooms that otherwise have very few distinguishable features.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tim Hortons, Cortland

141 Clinton Avenue, Cortland, NY 13045-1317
Grade: B+

The high quality of this Tim Horton's men's room was certainly unexpected. This is not to knock the establishment itself; I have actually found that the majority of stand-alone Tim Hortons are very modern and clean in general. But one does tend to, however unintentionally, assume things about the restroom of a fast food donut and coffee place.

This men's room erased those assumptions immediately. While these are basically utilitarian facilities done up with decorative tile, the room is nonetheless clean, pleasant and easy on the eyes. The hand dryer is small yet powerful, and the single-occupant bathroom offers a locking door for privacy. While there are a few improvements that could be made to bump it up to elite class -- the soap dispenser is a very standard pump model, and is filled with ordinary pink liquid soap -- this is an overall diamond in the rough.

Monday, March 14, 2011

South Hills Village

Grade: A-

More often than not, I find going to the mall to be a completely exhausting experience. This is not an antisocial or anti-consumerist thing; I feel very comfortable in crowds -- I have lived in or near cities for my entire life, and would not have it any other way -- and I sometimes do enjoy the casual shopping experience. But there is something about the harsh lighting and breakneck pace of most shopping malls that I simply cannot handle for prolonged periods of time. As a result, I prefer my visits to the mall to be quick and to the point, and generally only visit the mall for a movie or for a very specific item from a very specific retailer. My ideal mall visit certainly would not last long enough to have to take a bathroom break.

But in the rare case that I do need to spend several hours shopping, it's good to know that there are some malls that have their patrons' hygiene and comfort in mind. Take the men's room at South Hills Village. I couldn't ask for a more pleasant restroom experience than I received here, especially from a major retail center on a Saturday afternoon. The facilities were nearly spotless, and the decorative countertop and tiles have more in common with an Olive Garden or a movie theater chain than what I remember of the grimy mall restrooms growing up. 

The toilets, urinals, faucets and soap dispensers are all automatic. There is a manual paper towel dispenser, but an automatic Xlerator hand dryer easily makes up for that. What really impresses me, though, is the toilets' flushing power. While I at first thought that one toilet seat displayed traces of another human's liquids -- and thus hinted at negligence in general restroom upkeep -- after some tests I realized that the toilets flush with such strength that they lightly spray their seat tops. While it is certainly inconvenient to have to wipe down the toilet seat should you need to use it, this over spray shows that the restroom's equipment is functional and up to date.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pho Kim 88

4100 Library Rd # 3, Pittsburgh, PA 15234-1351
Grade: B+

Though a Vietnamese restaurant by nature, Pho Kim 88's men's room reflects (mostly) European decor. Not that this is a problem; while a little kitschy, the vines above the mirror and the column topped with scented candle and flowers beside the urinal are nevertheless nice touches. Further, the mass-produced art hanging on the wall is of a clearly European street scene, complete with cafe and chocolatier. The one Vietnamese accent -- the large, gold hand fan hanging beside the mirror -- contrasts very nicely with the deep red wall paint.

This would all be for naught if the restroom itself was unclean, but it seems to be very well maintained. While the urinal is a little low for my tastes (its bottom hangs only a few inches from the floor), the fact that is a single-person, locking bathroom is extremely convenient and lends the facilities a cozy, personal feel.

Gate House, Chatham University

5918 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Grade: A

The Chatham University Gate House offers a good example of what you can do with an otherwise unexceptional men's room. Though equipped with only the basics -- a standard paper dispenser and soap dispenser, as well as manually operated sink, toilet and urinal -- the decor lends the facilities a warm, comfortable ambience. Along with the peach-colored walls and the coordinating floor tiles, they have included a few countertop decorations (two small baskets and a sort of antique-looking chest) and some vanity lighting. Everything is very clean and obviously frequently attended to.

The one complaint I have is that the flush-mounted soap dispenser gives it a somewhat awkward pumping angle. You almost have to turn your hand sideways in order to pump the soap into your palm. This is a minor inconvenience, though, amidst an otherwise pleasant restroom experience.

Sheetz, Edinboro

5930 Rt. 6N West, Edinboro, PA 16412
Grade: D+

I don't care if you are a gas station off of the highway in the middle of not-exactly-happening Edinboro, Pennsylvania; there is no excuse for your men's room to be in such a state of disrepair, especially at 10:30pm on a Thursday night when traffic must be at its lowest. 

I do not expect anything particularly wonderful from gas station restrooms, and would be more or less content with reasonably clean, utilitarian facilities. But it appears as though even that is too much to ask of this Sheetz location. Though the restroom itself is in pretty good condition, I was shocked at the amount of garbage lying around on the floor. There were paper towels crumpled up on the floor near the trash can and toilet paper and toilet seat covers lying all about the stall. The sink was pretty filthy, and clearly had not been cleaned in some time. There was also a nearly-finished roll of toilet paper wedged between the handicap railing and the stall wall. Was someone really too lazy to install it in the dispenser?

Strangely, the restroom smelled all right -- as though it had recently been cleaned -- and a "wet floor" sign stood in the middle of the floor. This leads me to believe that an employee came in, pushed a mop around the floor and did not bother to pick up the garbage or clean the sink. Such negligence simply cannot be ignored. 

You had better believe that I contacted Sheetz to express my discontent as per the signage below. I implore all of my readers to make use of such contact information if any facilities that you come across are not up to par. We should not be required to tolerate such filth, and need to stand up and make our voices heard whenever possible. How else are things going to change? Remember: all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.