Friday 11 April 2008

Cozy UPENN Cafeteria Toilet Offers Push-Button Help

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
14th Floor Cafeteria
Philadelphia, PA USA

Where is it?

From the cafeteria, head to the elevator shaft and go on through, until you're in a cozy hallway beyond that. (It's filled with comfortable-looking chairs and a long stretch of windows that seems to take in the light pretty well.) Turn right when you reach that hallway. The toilets will be on your left, about 10 feet down.

What's it like?

These cozy surroundings offer visitors a tasteful place to make a pit stop. The walls are covered in beige wall paper, the floors are covered with off-white tile and metallic dividers separate the lone stall from the lone urinal. It's really quite comfortable and clean, making it perfect for longer visits (except during the lunch hour, when the cafeteria traffic is pretty high).

Given that it's really only got room for two, the place still manages to feel pretty spacious, if not a little old-fashioned (the result of the wallpaper). Thankfully, in this case, old-fashioned doesn't translate into old and weary. Most of the facilities here seem to shy away from technical advances we've seen at other bathrooms (including the disabled-persons-friendly facilities 10 floors below here). Paper towels are still cranked out manually, soap is dispensed via a wall-mounted pump, and the heater placed next to the commode (a nice touch, though a little antiquated) looks like it came from a 1970s student apartment.

Still, technology does rear its head around some. The toilets are all auto-flush, and the faucets are well-made automatic ones, releasing warm water instead of cold -- perfect for the cold winter day during which I made my visit.

While these qualities certainly make it sound like everything here is in tip top order, there were a few eccentric elements found that are worth noting. For one, the spare toilet paper roll for the stall was set on top of the paper towel dispenser, not in the stall itself. Naturally, this would make for a very awkward situation if the person in the stall ran out of paper and had to venture into the bathroom's lobby to restock.

Secondly, the same lobby has a large red button mounted to the wall of it, with a sign around the button reading "Press for Help." Now, I understand this is here to help disabled people who ventured in on their own and were unable to finish their business. Though really if the person needing help were in the stall he/she would have to go a long way to press the button, which made me question it's usefulness.

At the same time, being 14 floors above the ground (and with a great view of the city available to you just steps from the bathroom door), I took this little message as a call for something greater.... Perhaps it's all the Russian literature I've been reading lately?

Marks out of 10:

8. A nice bathroom through and through, and the eccentric touches actually had me thinking the toilet here was the equivalent of a traditional British B&B -- formal and cute, but with a bit of unique character to it.

Comments to the Management:

A very good bathroom that's well-maintained, except for that "Press for Help" button, which seems like it's in the wrong spot. Heck, if I'd backed away from the sink too quickly after washing my hands, I might even bump into it accidentally, and then think of the trouble I'd be in. Also, please store the spare toilet paper rolls in the stall -- this is a university, not a hot spot for public exposure enthusiasts.

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