Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ode to Curious Cases of Restroom Signage

Days Remaining to Next Beer: 360

If you enjoy a tasty pint or three like I do, you're certain to have eye out for where the loo is located within whatever fine establishment you've ensconced yourself into. As the age old adage goes, you don't buy beer, you only lease it. And hold it long as you like, once you break the proverbial seal you'll be making dashes to the powder room, bog, water closet, head, trough, boss's office, choir pit, or pisser as regular as commercial breaks during a Super Bowl. So little surprise restroom signs have always been a bit of a curiosity to me, and I believe you can tell a lot about the tone and soul of an establishment from how they denote their facilities, further how they elect to illuminate their gender assignments for the doors and rooms beyond.

Classy places might be nondescript, perhaps have the men's room and ladies social house called out with swirling brass engraved text, and in French since little says class to native English speakers than le Toilet de Femme or le Toilet de Homme. More than one comedian has pointed out that you could tell someone who doesn't speak French that you'd just given them terminal cancer of the bellybutton and they had but minutes to live before exploding through their own nostrils and as long as you did so with fluent, sultry Parisian words and tones and wee wees and hone-hunhs that the recipient of this stupendous news would probably think they've just been asked to join some sort of adventurous trist with Juliette Binoche, her long lost identical twin sister, a bottle of rubber cement and a pair of water wings.

Urban cowboy high-ceiling type joints might have big wood cut signs laden with bad puns and emblazoned with varnished hemp lasso rope. Maybe even use genre terms like filly or cowpoke though that might depend on the state or province.

Yuppy warehouse district places could get flashy, kitschy, tacky, or any of the above. Hipster joints recycle doors with re-purposed elements to speak to the mix tape mash-up wiki literate 4G is last week trend regretters.

I like the signs that are absurd, the more gaudy and audacious the better, especially if the signs involve props and appear to have escaped Carrot Top's toy box. I like signs that speak to the very people most likely to seek them desperately and subsequently see them frequently.

I like the signs that seem to commiserate, to deliberately go too far with whatever theme the joint is plying, to the point that you actually have to be a fan of the theme to find the door signs remotely charming instead of groan inducing, though true, I do like the sorts of signs that make others wince or groan. Especially if sculptures were involved. I like signs that seem to afford a challenge, a double dog dare for the prospect of truly grokking the genious of the sight gag by getting damn well drunk.

I like signs that defy convention and force people to think. A great example would be the door signs my friend Yu-Jin painted for a local cafe years ago. The place had two largely identical single occupancy rooms, each with a nondescript door but for the oval shaped painted signs Yu-Jin created. No text instructed people which room sat to serve girl bits over boy bits. And the paintings did nothing to answer the question for blurry eyed bloated bladder boys and or knees crossed wine keeps you skinny girls, as both were portraits of essentially metro-sexual head shots, one blonde and the other brunette.

I took great enjoyment from watching person after person draw up short, hand out about to touch a doorknob, seeing those signs and suddenly feeling doubt, looking around nervously for witness, or intervention, an answer perhaps. Seemed women gravitated more to the blond head, though whether for a sense of affinity or a satisfaction that the head shot meant the room had been blessed by Barbi's Ken, I don't know.

I enjoyed people slowly creaking the door open when they'd finished their business as though worried a line up of the opposite gender would be waiting outside the door to make rude comments for having chosen incorrectly. I liked the amount of awkwardness and consternation such a simple, elegant installation evoked. keep in mind the rooms were essentially identical and far as I can remember neither room had a urinal to definitively differentiate a boy's room to smoke in.
So today's post is an ode to bathroom signage. Feel free to post pix of any great or greatly absurd, strangely wonderful signage for restrooms, I'd love to see them.


1 comment:

  1. I would swear the top two are from a pub in England. It would be too perfect if they were from the White Horse but I can't recall now...