Portland Airport Restrooms

February 17, 2009

We are waiting in the airport lounge near the gate and I need a leak. I’m getting into this wheelin’ around lark now so speed off to the restroom. Funnily enough, from my height the restroom sign is occluded by a whole bunch of other signs, but a quick inquiry of a food court server confirms I’m on the right track. I enter the restroom and immediately hear straining. What’s more, its coming from the disabled stall and the pair of socks and shoes responsible for the straining noises seem very fit or un-disabled. As a regular user of disabled stalls in commercial buildings I have never prevented a disabled person from using the restroom, or have I? I so rarely encounter disabled people in restrooms that the disabled stall’s semantics have been redefined in my brain. This is a place:

  • where there’s more space, so you can bring bags and jackets with you
  • that usually only has one adjacent stall (its normally in the corner of the room), so only one other person straining next to you
  • where the toilet is further away from the stall divider so your neighbor is less likely to be able to see your feet and hence, be able to recognize you as an ex-stall-neighbor

In short, the disabled stall is more comfortable and offers better privacy than the regular stalls (for me). My model has just been shattered! I no longer care about comfort and privacy – I just want to take a leak! And Mr. Maroon Socks is preventing me from doing this. Considering my options I decide to relocate to outside the restrooms until I see Mr. Maroon Socks depart. The idea of just hanging out inside the restroom is not that attractive to me.

A few minutes later I recognize my target. He’s in a hurry. I just hope that he was not in too much of a hurry when he cleaned up after himself in the stall. There’s a lot of surfaces that I now interact with these days. Thankfully, he had cleaned up well. I maneuvered my chair around so that I could back into the stall and reached forward to grab the underside of the door so that I could pull it closed – the right hand edge and handle mechanism are too far away to reach. As I’m sitting doing my thing I focus in on an information sticker on the stall door. It actually describes the features of the toilet flush mechanism but its diagram and proximity to the stall locking mechanism make it appear to describe the features of the lock. Perhaps its my pain-medicated state, but it doesn’t seem implausible that the position of the lock on the door should define what kind of flush will occur when you flush the toilet.

Toilet flush options sticker too close to stall locking mechanism

Once I’m finished I approach the sink area and make note of the locations of soap dispenser, sink and paper towel dispenser. There is a small wall separating the sink from the towel dispenser, but by positioning my wheelchair so I’m straddling the small wall, I am able to soap, wash and dry my hands without moving my wheelchair. I’m learning.


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