Next weekend Toronto hosts the revival of Doors Open, an annual tradition that has been on hold, like so many other things, for the past 2 years. During that time, I have written about lots of buildings around our great city; ones with historic relevance, ones that are part of eccentric neighbourhoods, ones with artistic features. So what to write about this year?
In Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Elizabeth Renzetti had the answer. Her headline caught my eye: ” Public washrooms Should Be Figured Into People’s Reckoning of a Great City.” Renzetti points out that public washrooms are key to allowing people full access to their city. Consider families with small kids, tourists in a hurry to see everything before their bus departs, business people running between appointments, oldies like us who have to pee every 2 hours. How else are we able to venture very far from our homes?
There are elegant washrooms in many public spaces such as shopping venues. One of my favourites is at Yorkdale Mall. The wall tiles are glazed in a lovely shade of turquoise, the sinks have sink-sized water walls, and quiet music – all these features create a very relaxing visit. I also found a washroom in the same mall with a fireplace, comfortable chairs, and a TV! I’m not sure why somebody would want to camp out in a public washroom to watch old re-runs of Downton Abbey, but hey….
However, a lot of these public washrooms are not really available to the public. The premise is that you are going to BUY something in exchange for these services. I’m sure you have sometimes bought a coffee you didn’t really want, just so you could use the Timmy’s bathroom nearby. But many large families can’t afford to do this.
So are there public washrooms that are accessible to everyone? Well there are lots of porta-potties. Usually they are bright blue and come equipped with much odor and no toilet paper. You can find these lined up, row upon row, at outdoor concerts, fairs, or golf tournaments.
We actually had a porta-pottie on our front lawn recently during some road work. Not sure that it increased the value of our house. Another time we had a wedding in our back yard and rented the high-end version – white with little sink stations inside each. We added white bows to each door and voila – we were all set for 100 people!
For other locations, look on the internet and you will find apps and websites that direct you to public washrooms; ones near subway stops, on public golf courses, and around various downtown neighbourhoods. That is not to say that they are respectable – just that they are there if you are desperate.
So I went online to find the best public washrooms in the city. Number one is listed as the women’s washroom at Bayview Village Mall, a high-end shopping spot. The washrooms there come complete with chandeliers, gilded mirrors, and individual stalls. The stalls are all hands-free: no possibility of catching germs on the toilet, the sink, or the dryer. Another washroom high on the list is at Humberwood Park in north Etobicoke. It’s not so fancy on the inside, but the outside, designed by architect Kevin Weiss, is quite unique.
One public washroom Peter and I pass by quite regularly on our walks to Lake Ontario is called the Oculus. It was built in 1959 after Hurricane Hazel tore through the Humber Valley, destroying everything in its path. The Oculus, built as a “comfort station,” fell into disrepair and we found it deserted when we moved here from the country. But recent attempts have been made to restore it. The latest renovation has begun with bright yellow vinyl stripes attached. This new washroom is aptly titled ” Brighter Days Ahead.” We could all use some brighter days – and more public washrooms would help! A place to rest in comfort without paying would be welcomed by all.
PS if you have a favourite public washroom, please hurry and share it with other readers. We all may need one during Doors Open.