The only thing worse than walking the crowded streets of a major metropolitan area this summer is doing so while having to go to the bathroom. It's a little too easy to brush this aside as a non-issue but when you're in downtown NYC or Chicago and you get called to action, it's good to have a list of establishments that can provide adequate facilities for your, situation. So after a few cups of coffee, a cigarette, and a smoothie, here is a list of 7 places that can help you find relief.
The reason McDonalds is often a better option than a Starbucks is because everyone and their mothers are in line to use the bathroom at Starbucks. Also, everyone acknowledges that there is a whole sub-sect of people who come into Starbucks just to use the bathroom and the actual customers recognize you as one of them. I don't need their judgement. In McDonalds there's never a line and nobody cares if you're there just to use the toilet. They've got bigger problems, they're dining in at a McDonalds.
The beauty of walking into a bar is the anonymity. No one will question you as long as you meander towards the bar, pause and redirect yourself towards the bathroom. Often there's no need for theatricality, you can just b-line towards the stalls. Not a great bet for much more than taking a leak, but definitely a great go-to. And surprisingly the bar option is viable at almost any hour of the day, but not recommended before 1pm.
Ahhh restaurants. We all know they have great bathrooms but they are also the most heavily guarded. The cat and mouse game between the staff and the non-paying toilet defiler is as old as toilets themselves. Your main obstacle is the host or hostess. This person is the gate keeper. They head you off at the pass and ask what your intentions are for their restaurant. You either have to be very crafty or choose restaurants with very lax or no hostess presence.
Museums are hit and miss and a bit of a risk because of the valuable time you spend searching for a bathroom that may not exist. If there's no bathroom in the main lobby it might not be worth buying a ticket to get in. But many museums are free and ask for a suggested donation. So whether you pay or not, you can get a ticket and waltz in. Also, there's no better time to contemplate a Picasso than after you've just relieved yourself. It's a moment ripe for epiphanies.
There's nothing blasphemous about going into a house of worship to sit on their throne as long as it's done with respect. Keep your voice to a whisper and if you're stopped by clergymen or women just simply say that you were curious and wanted to come inside to take a look around. That "look around" will, god willing, lead you to the bathroom. I warn against stopping into a Scientology center though, you'll end up playing 21 questions and may never get out of there.
While I wouldn't necessarily recommend wandering into a grammar school (there's probably laws against it), but if there is a nearby college, university, or community college this can be a winner. If you can find the main administrative building this will be your best bet. The buildings with classrooms will most likely require an I.D. scan to get in, but the admissions office and visitors center will be smooth sailing. Also, pick up a copy of the school newspaper on your way to the stall.
If you can find a hotel nearby this is a goldmine. The perfect sanctuary for any situation. The doorman will great you cheerfully, you can pick up a copy of USA today and make your way to their sparkling facilities. Usually quiet and free from heavy foot traffic, this is an ideal scenario. Just be careful not to look too confused as to where you are and where you're going. This will require you to utilize your instincts and years of training.