Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mizpee.com: telling people where to go

New Yorkers are accustomed to being told where to go, and for those of us who need to whiz around Manhattan, Mizpee.com is here to help. It’s a service that invites you to use your cell phone to e-mail a zip code in order to scope out a nearby, clean bathroom. My cell phone doesn’t provide for e-mail so this won't be a useful resource for me, but since peeing is a priority, I’ve developed strategies to help me get through the day.

I know better than to expect the Sherry Netherland doorman to be sympathetic to my overactive bladder so when I feel the need, I do my best to assume the attitude of an upper East Sider, one who deserves to use the facilities at Per Se and The Pierre alike. I'm in no danger of being mistaken for Ivana Trump and don’t carry a Gucci, which means it take work to create the aura of privilege. Appearing to have a sense of entitlement, I’ve found, is the key to getting the bathroom key.

Bathroom access is a huge issue for me. I try for an aisle seat at the theater, movies and on airplanes. I pee as a prophylactic measure before leaving a safe spot. I can say, “Where’s the bathroom” in all the romance languages. My need to pee frequently is one reason I don’t go on long hikes, the other being I hate hiking. While department stores bathrooms once provided an easy solution, few of those remain. Coffee shops, too, have given way to Duane Reades, which are handy if you need dental floss, useless when you need to pee.

Restaurants are the answer, but they expect you to eat there, so I’ve developed a system for off-mealtime relief. I make sure the host/hostess notices me, at which time I scan the room as if meeting someone. Feigning exasperation, I check my watch and mutter, “He’s not here yet. Where’s the ladies room?” This has been successful except at Brighton Beach’s Primorski, where what appear to be former KGB agents are stationed to guard the bathroom from non-eaters. When necessary, I’ve eaten an order of pirogi in order to gain admission to their toilet. And I’m not discouraged by a sign that says, “Restrooms for customers only”. You can’t be a sissy when you have to make a sissy.

I’m comfortable in public bathrooms, intuiting how to avoid making contacting with bacteria-laden surfaces in a gas station and where to reach for a light switch (most often to the right of the entrance). While traveling in Japan, however, I was thrown by their ultra-sophisticated Toto toilets. Though I understood the icons showing how various areas could be showered, with a choice of music or a flushing sound to back up my own, I was unable to figure out how to flush the toilet in our hotel lobby. I pressed something and was taken aback to have the concierge turn up. But that’s been my only mishap in an otherwise unblemished run.

So, I welcome mizpee.com, as I’m sure do others with busy bladders, but I’ll have to continue operating as a free agent.

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