Everybody Poops: Using the Toilet in the Bay Area

Travel Tips — By Louis Wertz on October 27, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Had a few too many glasses of California chardonnay? Those fresh oysters, hot chocolate and sourdough bread not getting along inside? Need a toilet pronto? You’ve come to the best place. (The best place in Australia, however, is a hundred times as good: the Aussie federal government keeps an up to date map of the more than 14,000 public restrooms around the country available online.)

1. The easiest place to find a “public” bathroom in the Bay Area is in the lobby of any hotel. These bathrooms are usually tucked away out of sight of the front door, hidden from the undesirables who might really stink them up. But if you’re canny and clean, you’ll have no trouble slipping past the front desk without so much as a “donde esta el baño?”

Not near a hotel? San Francisco is also home to self-cleaning single user public bathroom stalls, which usually require a small fee for their use. The condition of these little water closets varies widely… using one or not usually comes down to how badly you have to go. The green boxes contain a metal toilet, a sink and a mirror, and usually a very slippery floor, since the whole thing was just hosed down after the last tinkler tinkled. Prices range from $0.50 to $2, usually only payable in coins. Warning: don’t bring your magazine. The door automatically opens after twenty minutes!

Inside your run of the mill self-cleaning public restroom.

The outside of said public restroom.

Finally, if neither of these options presents itself, there is always the handy coffee shop or café bathroom. Since they are not public, these are usually “reserved for customers only.” So buy something! A cookie, hard boiled egg or small coffee won’t cost you more than $2. Or, if you just spent your last buck on the glass of wine that put you in desperation mode, give them the “if you don’t give me the key, I just might pee on your floor” face. It almost always works.

2. The Bay Area is very cosmopolitan. As such, our bathrooms often go by many more worldly names: yes, that WC does contain a toilet. You could see a sign pointing the way to the restroom, loo, commode, or comfort station. If its called the ladies’ room, it might even have a sofa in it. More likely; it just doesn’t have urinals. (Don’t know what a urinal is?)

3. If the toilet flushes itself when you stand up, don’t worry, it was probably designed to do that. If you need to flush it again, there is usually a little black button on the wall (near the blinking red light) that you can push. If not, well, as the article linked above notes, you’re pretty much screwed.

Tags: bathroom, commode, hygiene, latrinalia, san francisco, toilet, Travel Tips


  • Ashley says:

    Best free toilet in Golden Gate Park – the de Young museum. They have a restroom in their free-space lobby area, and it’s in a museum so you know they’ll keep it clean.

  • Jenny Sawyer says:

    I saw this public restroom when we were in SF last week but didn’t have the guts to use it. People will actually use the maximum 20 minutes in there. 20 minutes??? I’m not going in any restroom after someone’s been in there 20 minutes! I don’t care if it is self cleaning! I still LOVE San Francisco!


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