I went to use the toilet whilst I was in Bakewell this afternoon (we were taking the visitors on a quick tour of Derbyshire). I’m told, having spent much of the afternoon discussing linguistic differences between English and Canadian English, that this expression is considered indelicate in North America. It seems that “use the bathroom” is the polite alternative, as “use the toilet”, which falls into the category of too much information. However, there are two things to consider here. One is that the room with the toilet in is called “the toilet” by most people I know. We have a toilet in our toilet. We have a bathroom with a bath and wash basin in it. Believe me when I say you wouldn’t want me to get confused and “use the bathroom” for what I have in mind.
Anyway, after having fish and chips by the bridge I nipped round the corner and offered my card to the reader on the public toilet entry system. It took some effort as I was using two sticks, which needed steadying as I fished my wallet from my pocket.
“Cash Only” flashed up on the screen.
I had to move at that point, to let someone out. I was tempted to rush the doors as they opened for him, but the presence of a cleaner prevented me. The presence of the cleaner also prevented me using a trick one of the Bakewell market traders showed me several years ago.
Juggling card, wallet and two sticks I struck up a conversation with the cleaner.
“Excuse me,” I said, “is there a toilet around here that doesn’t require payment?”
He looked at me suspiciously.
“The card reader isn’t working.” I said.
“Have you any cash?”
“I have a £1 coin but I don’t really want to use that for a 20p payment.”
I also wanted to add that if I had 20p I would have used it and not have juggled with card, wallet and two sticks. But I remained polite and charming.
So he let me in free of charge. They are very nice toilets, and well worth 20p. They are probably worth £1 if you need them, but I don’t feel like paying £1 when they only want 20p and can’t keep their system in working order.