Last night I found myself in the strange position of standing at a bar in an establishment called Jekyll & Hyde - a year-round Halloween sort of place with skeletons hanging from the walls and what appeared to be preserved bats and spiders (and maybe brains?) in a display case overhead and random cackling/howling/spooky noises interrupting conversation every so often. This was not my choice for post-dinner drinks and it really didn't seem like the taste of any of my companions either, but we weren't ready to part ways and the bar was empty when we walked in, so we stayed.
We stayed until one of the bar stools sunk nearly to the floor . . .
Unfortunately, I did not use the bathroom in the perfectly nice Italian restaurant where we had just eaten because I was sitting in the middle and I would have had to kick one of my dining companions out of their seat, scootched across the bench and then squeezed between the narrow space separating our table from the adjacent diner's and repeated the whole process when I returned. So I waited, not anticipating that waiting meant I would have to ask the woman behind the bar with the spooky milky-white contacts on where the restroom was.
I also never would have anticipated her response - after she instructed me to go to the back of the restaurant and I nodded my head and started off in that direction she added "push the 6th bookshelf on the left."
When I came to the hallway - lined with bookcases - I had to wait for a series of people to exit before I could continue what should have been my uneventful search for the restroom. Each of the 4 or 5 people who streamed out seemed like they were straight from my high school's theater department and stage crew. Or possibly wannabe extras in a Thriller re-make video.
I walked purposefully down the hall without counting bookshelves. Then I realized the reason for the instruction - no signage except at the end of the hall where a taunting little sign said something about how you have come too far if you are looking for the bathroom and should try again.
Finding a place to pee in a bar should not be this difficult. As one of my friends commented after returning from his hunt for the bathroom - it would be impossible to find if you were "messed up." I mean, seriously, if it is this difficult sober, how do they expect intoxicated patrons to find the bathroom?
I pushed on the nearest bookcase on my left and lucked out when it opened into a bathroom. I was a little wary because I had no idea if it was the men's room, lady's room or a unisex but there were two stalls and the place reeked of urine. REEKED!
Not spotting a urinal anywhere, I assumed I had found the right place.
However, if I didn't have to go so bad, I would have turned around and left.
The first stall had a rather full and unflushed toilet and a wet floor.
Stall number two did not have a latch and the way the doors were situated, if anyone found the right bookshelf to push, they could easily stumble directly into stall number two without much warning.
So I returned to stall number one, tried to hold my breath and while I took care of business I wondered whose idea it was to make finding the bathroom so mysterious. And icky.
Many restaurants and bars in Manhattan have theme bathrooms or just incredibly beautifully designed bathrooms. There are bathrooms with clear doors that become opaque once you turn the latch (a little unsettling for the first time user), bathrooms with impressivly deep wash basins and waterfall-like sink. And of course, there are the bathrooms at one of my favorite restuarants which each have a different musician theme - Dolly Parton or Elvis are both featured - and inside there is a tile mosaic of the artist, a case with a barbie doll of the artist and a loop of that musician's music playing.
There are also a lot of divey, gross bathrooms with questionable locks and lots of leaks where you just cross your fingers and say a prayer that no one will barge in and find you with your pants down.
And my final pet peeve about the quest for a bathroom is not just a NYC thing - the irritating habit of restaurants extending their theme to come up with clever (read: stupid) names to differentiate the men's room from the women's: hombres/mujeres and hommes/femmes are among the more familiar and easily differentiated. However, sometimes the drawings and foreign words can lead to some real confusion at a time when most people would rather not dally outside trying to make a choice. Just because I thought all dogs were boys and all cats were girls when I was six, does not mean I - or others - will think the same when faced with a door with a crude illustration of each while dancing just a little bit as I debate the sex of the chicken on the door when I'm just trying to get to a toilet.