Monday, June 21, 2010

Call of Nature

Whenever we go out to dinner, invariably at some point I am going to need to use the restroom. Restaurants occasionally like to be “cute” in their décor and so will try to come up with (what they think are) clever names designating the gender between the men’s and women’s bathrooms.

A local restaurant (now out of business) called The Fox and Firkin identified their men’s and woman’s rooms using the unimaginative titles “Foxes” versus “Firkins” on each bathroom door. Now most people pretty much know what a fox is; it turns out that a “firkin” is:
  1. a British unit of capacity usually equal to a quarter of a barrel.
  2. a small wooden vessel or tub for butter, lard, etc.
So there I was standing before two doors, glancing back and forth trying to decide which was the men’s room. I knew that among foxes, the male is called a “reynard” and the female a “vixen”. However in popular American culture we often refer to attractive young women as “foxes”; so that could be the women's room... Ah but much to my relief, the voice of the bartender said in a tiresome tone belying he probably has had to say it a lot: “You’re a firkin”.

So yet again this past week, after downing a pint of luscious ale at a coastal brew pub, came the need for me to make room for more ale. I followed the directional signs to the restrooms only to be faced again with yet another clever restaurateur puzzle: two doors, one labeled “Hops” the other “Barley”. I’m now completely stumped; not in my wildest imagination am I able to assign gender to beer ingredients. Glancing over my shoulder least I be observed, I nudged the “Hops” door open just enough to peek inside. Within view were the reassuring fixtures of urinals.

When I got back to the table, Nancy then had to go; I decided to allow her the pleasure of solving the puzzle all by herself. When she returned I asked her which did she use, “Hops” or “Barley”?

“Neither”, she said. “I used the generic handicapped restroom”.

24 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

Good thinking, Nancy! Suppose they used the words "plugs" and "sockets". Do you think that would cause offence in America?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas Difficult to say; generally if Americans don't know the meaning of a word, they assume it's salacious.

Some guy wanted a custom license plate for his car with the word "petard". But the motor vehicles department would have none of that sort of nastiness displayed on a license plate. I guess the applicant ended up being hosted up on his own petard.

Orhan Kahn said...

It goes without saying, you are too smart for your own good sometimes. Or maybe trivial facts about foxes is common knowledge in your parts.

Penny said...

Yes good thinking, Nancy.
I love those restrooms sometimes found in arthouse movie theatres and some restaurants, that have wonderful decor with potted plants, paintings, gilded frame mirrors, perfume samplers, handcream lotions...All too rare unfortunately. And I've no idea what the male equivalent restroom is. :)

Elisabeth said...

It's the cartoon impersonations that depict some view of the difference between men and women on doors that I find hardest to decipher, but like you I'd be inclined either to ask or to take a peek.

Though like others here, I'm all for acknowledging Nancy's cleverness. Go for the generic.

Marylinn Kelly said...

What became of keeping it simple? Good customer service would not require solving mysteries. I guess I'm having one of those "life is too short..." days.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Orhan Indeed, sometimes we outsmart ourselves, over-thinking situations.

Penny Yes, and it makes me wonder where the "rest" in restroom came from? Perhaps they were a place of repose and refreshment?

Elisabeth I've seen that as well, androgynous characters that one has to puzzle out. This is not the moment to be solving puzzles.

Marylinn Agree. This is a continual battle I have with marketing-types; they just HAVE to be clever. Some things don't need marketing applied, and bathrooms are one of those things.

The Mother said...

I will warn Bananas that I was at a radio shack trying to get an electronic part the other day, and the twenty-ish clerk did not understand "male end." So plugs and sockets are probably right out.

I thought this was going to be a post about how much more often the wife had to use the loo. I was all fired up to give you what for! (Since I'm one of those, too.)

Shucks. I just have to agree.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Dr. Mom Nahhh, we are pretty much equals in that regard. Anywhere we go we usually scout out where the nearest can is. It must be an age thing.

Jerry said...

The only bathroom accoutrement that I have actually appreciated is the newspaper on the wall above the urinal. That's assuming that I found the room that had urinals.

Kay Dennison said...

Too funny!!!! I hate cutesy signs like that.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Jerry I KNOW... I totally appreciate it when they do that! Who wants to stare at a blank wall ??

Kay I am sure there are web sites dedicated to cutesy bathroom signs like that.

Penny said...

Your reply to my comment about fancy restrooms, and the "rest" part of the word, reminded me that the most glamorous restroom I've seen was in a very utilitarian looking multistorey building owned by the Salvation Army, and used as their headquarters. Desperate to go one day I'd sneaked up the stairs of the nearest building to use the (Doors clearly marked)facilities that are always at the top of stairs. And found myself in some sort of art decor paradise. Well, you can't say the "Sallies" don't look after their employees.
BTW I've been known to use the men's when the marking wasn't clear or there was a long line for the ladies one.

kara said...

ROGUE BREWERY! I hate that place for their stupid stupid stupid bathroom signs. But their beer/cheese soup is good.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kara Rogue Brewery is right! My fav is the "Hazelnut Brown".

GutsyWriter said...

I've been confused a few times myself, however, sometimes if a woman stays in the ladies room forever, I'll go in the men's room. Last month, in a pub in London, I had to walk past the urinals to get to the toilet with a door. Quite interesting.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Gusty This issue of "potty parity" has come up as a controversy in public buildings. A woman was arrested or cited for stepping out of the long women's restroom queue and using the less busy men's room.

It doesn't seem like a high crime to me and if there is the need, who would care?

I have walked into a women's room quite by accident a couple of times. The vending machines on the wall dispensing completely different gender products was my clue in one case - screams alerted me to my error in the second case.

TechnoBabe said...

Thank goodness, more people into bathrooms like I am. I think I have done more posts about various bathrooms than any other subject. I would not have known which to choose between hops or barley, but if I am in a hurry, it is just open the door and get into the first stall. Ha. Greetings to your Nancy and tell her I am really impressed with her good common sense.

Robert the Skeptic said...

TechoBabe Yeah, Nancy has common sense in spades. She is also famous for saying "Everyone can go at least one more drop".

The Idiot Speaketh said...

I think they should use the terms from the short-lived sitcom "Dinosaurs". You could have "Mama!" and "Not the Mama!"

Robert the Skeptic said...

Idiot Anything! So long as I don't have to figure it out while I am "under pressure".

secret agent woman said...

I went to a club called the Barn, so to stay in theme the doors were marked "Goose" and "Gander." Straightforward, right? No - because they had a female goose with a pink bow on the Gander sign and a gander with a blue hat on the Goose sign.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent It appears that the proprietors of The Barn were a bit gender confused themselves. As I say, somewhere is probably a web site that has collected all the strange bathroom sign variations. I'm not highly motivated to Google it myself, however.

caroline732 said...

Hahaha, LOVE it!
I'm reading your post on the train and my choked laughter and watering eyes are meeting with snooty disapprove.But I can't help it- the mental image is too strong. xx