Writing Prompts: Spending a Penny

white ceramic sink beside white ceramic toilet bowl
Photo by Hakim Santoso on Pexels.com

The humble toilet. A familiar sight across many households, and something we are all quite familiar with (I certainly should be, considering I sell the things!).

We all know what goes on when we use a toilet, and whilst we don’t openly discuss the, ah, unpleasantries, they are a fact of life, natural bodily functions, and unavoidable. Everyone needs to ‘go’, from time to time.

Why then, do some places charge for this natural and inescapable function? In the UK, places such as stations often charge people to use the facilities, and it’s not an issue native to the UK either. All around the world, it’s become acceptable to make people pay to use the loo, and historically, this pay-to-use system has affected women more than men (urinals have historically been more likely to be free to use, albeit with exceptions).

The expression ‘spend a penny’ refers to how, at one point it cost 1p to use a public loo in the UK. it now costs more than that, yet the expression remains, and is often used as euphemism for, um, peeing.

The availability of free urinals for men tends to be, for lack of a better phrase, a defensive measure, to discourage fellas from simply going where they want (and creating something of a public health grievance in the process). Why the same logic isn’t applied to women basically amounts to unbridled sexism, but regardless of who is publicly relieving themselves, wouldn’t it make sense to do away with chargeable loos, so that no one is caught short? Arriving at say, Paddington station, absolutely desperate to empty one’s bladder, and not having the coinage to get into the loo creates the very problem public loos were intended to solve. It’s not like the owners of the stations (and other places that charge) aren’t well-off. They don’t need to charge for a basic human function, they want to, and as is so often the case, the root of the problem is greed. If money can be made out of it, someone will find a way to do so, no matter the consequences.

Really, when you think about, this is taking the piss.

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