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April 27th, 2009:

Travel Tips #.2 Where to pee in NYC


Years ago, in the dark ages of the early 1970s, New York City had a lot in common with its European counterparts. It was dirty, drug ridden and was suffering under a repressive pay-to-pee regime.  But in the mid 70s a fearless band of patriots successfully fought to banish pay toilets from NYC forever. Today, it is illegal for shopkeepers, restaurateurs and pay-toilet booth operators alike to charge someone to pee.  

But of course, in a city as overrun with workers and tourists as New York is, the disappearance of for-profit restrooms has left a vexing question. Where to go to the bathroom when you’re on the go? (This being America, we certainly wouldn’t expect the government to offer such services)

In most of the USA, the answer to this question would be simple, McDonalds. They’re located every mile or so and always have free restrooms which are generally clean. Plus, the standardized layout means you never need to waste precious time searching for the men’s room.

But one of NYC’s failings is that there simply aren’t enough McDonald’s locations to serve the sanitation needs of the millions of residents and tourists the city holds. Thankfully, the good men and women at the Starbucks Corporation have taken up some of the slack.

New Yorkers love their coffee—especially when it costs $4 and has a goofy name—and the Starbucks Corporation has indulged this love by blanketing Manhattan with hundreds of Starbucks locations. The upshot of this is that not only do you never need to walk far to get your next cappuccino, but there is also a plethora of friendly, clean, and easily identifiable free toilets plastered across the city.

So next time you’re in New York, and you see three Starbucks’ locations at one intersection remember: Starbucks’ pricey coffee and free bathrooms are a cornerstone of America (or at least NYC).  After all, in Europe you’d have to drink Nescafe and pay €2 to use the bathroom afterwards. 

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