“Paying to Go”


The bus I took home from high school left from the Greyhound Bus Station. It was a cavernous place, full of many travelers. I had to wait inside until they posted a notice that my bus had arrived. That meant that I often needed to use the restroom.

The ladies room was lined with toilets, all except one requiring a nickel to unlock the stall. I am not sure why they kept one open for free, but it appeared to be rarely cleaned or properly stocked. The incentive was there to pay to go. However, no one liked the charge, so most people participated in a scheme to help others to avoid the fee. Because there was a bathroom attendant(who probably didn’t really care, but it made it seem more furtive!) the task demanded stealth. Once some of the stalls were unlocked, people casually lingered outside them. Then when someone exited, she gave you the “go ahead look” and held the door long enough for you to enter. Occasionally, someone would leave and purposely close the door behind her. I always guessed she hadn’t been the recipient of an open door, and she felt entitled to getting her money’s worth.

Some department stores also had pay toilets. At Meier and Frank, the largest store, the pay ones were marble and the free ones simply porcelain. Perhaps it wasn’t so different from first and coach class on transportation. At any rate, I always chose porcelain. I was only making $1.00 an hour, and didn’t want to waste even a nickel.

I stopped seeing pay toilets many years ago. I don’t know who had decided to install them or who decided to take them out. They are one piece of the past I don’t miss.

7 thoughts on ““Paying to Go”

  1. I have to agree with you there! Fortunately for most of my life I encountered free ones. Have you ever had to use the outhouse style at roadside rest stops? Ew.


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