Friday, July 1, 2016

Gendered bathrooms

Paris is notoriously dense. Building footprints and space in the (x,y) plane are coveted and extremely valuable. (Bear with me.) So it is curious and inventive that the city of Paris manages to squeeze a lot of public-accessible spaces in around the private, closed buildings --- a masterful but slow game of tetris to improve the quality of life of all the inhabitants. I had heard that there are many public swimming pools, but the only one I've seen is the Piscine Jos├ęphine Baker, visible because it is floating, exposed, on a barge in the river.

The weather is hot and that swimming pool is currently closed, so I sought out a different one --- Piscine Georges Drigny, which I must have passed every day for several years without noticing. Density. Tetris. It's squeezed in underneath a high school, and the space-saving is extreme: an entry desk, a locker room, showers on the side of the pool. That's it.

One locker room. Just one. There is no gendered separation of spaces, there is hardly any division of spaces at all. The entire facility has only three toilets. There's no space wasted, and space-wastage is not possible.

As with all things, I observed how the locals were behaving and just went along with it. No one was nude in the locker room (there is a handful of private changing stalls in niches in the wall), and post-swim I saw a fair number of people reaching inside their bathing suits to wash what was covered from sight --- everyone washes with soap and shampoo, bathing-suited, out in the public area. The entire thing is a public area.

And it is not a big deal.

No one was creepy in the communal locker room. It was not weird. Everyone just wanted to swim and then go to work, so the entire process was businesslike and smooth. Huge illustrated signs everywhere reminded patrons of the rules (cleanliness, no running, etc.) and the lifeguards were reading newspapers.

This was completely practical and a simple way to ease the space requirements for a public pool. I'm in favor of this being implemented everywhere. I'm also in favor of French manners, politeness, and public rules-conformity being broadly implemented, as this attitude makes for a much more relaxing public experience than the brash, self-interested American style, IMHO.

I'm enjoying the calm rationality while I can, here in a member state of the EU, where civilization, and its concomitant steady supply of fresh bread year-round, still persist.

This post's theme word is parastatal (noun or adjective), "a company or agency owned wholly or partly by the government" or "relating to such an organization." The parastatal pool was packed, but the process ran placidly.


avalokiteswara said...

I've been following your blog for a few months, and I recently read your first post saying that you'd prefer that strangers not read your posts. Should I stop reading?

Lila is a complex system. said...

Go ahead and keep reading! It's publicly available. Welcome, stranger!