Last Friday, I discovered the ladies’ room on my floor was out of that rough, cheap grey substance that could only charitably be called “toilet paper”. Knowing how long it takes for the staff to do anything (we’re talking about a building that was too cheap to turn on heating until late November, leaving us freezing in the office), during my break, I went to the nearby shop and bought four rolls of good, soft toilet paper, leaving them there as a hint to stop “saving on matches”, as we Russians say.
Today I found out that only the one roll I unpacked remained on the counter, while the pack with the three other rolls vanished without a trace. Out of curiosity, I went to the men’s room to look if some of them were moved there, only to see that its supply of toilet paper was running out as well and nobody even thought of putting another roll there, even from the three spare ones I provided.
I’ve written about this before. What prompted this entry was Mackenzie’s welcome news about a switch to unisex rooms.
Some things have changed since my earlier post. For one, I’ve actually used ladies’ rooms a few times now – covertly, taking care not to be seen. Really, I didn’t notice much difference, except that the one at my current workplace has more hygiene products and some funny messages on walls about not clogging it with food residue and used paper. Well, that, and I always sit down. Strictly speaking, I don’t have to, but “when in Rome…”
What particularly bugs me about the Russian toilet segregation practices is that in many buildings, especially Soviet legacy ones, not only are the two rooms completely identical, but also, each is designed for a single occupant. In our local shopping center, both rooms are overseen by an old lady who sits by a table in front of them charging for use. Simply removing the gender labels would lose absolutely nothing – it wouldn’t even introduce the danger of being seen or inappropriately touched – but would increase throughput.
What’s. The. Point?
Sheer power of tradition, maybe? The dentist clinic here only has one small room, with a single toilet. Yet there are still “male” and “female” pointer signs on the wall, except they both point to that single room. Convenience? Inertia? I don’t get it.