Thursday, January 21, 2010

Urban Survival Tip #2

It’s one of those perfect, sparkling Sundays in New York City. You rouse yourself and meet some friends for brunch. You drink some water to cure your Saturday evening indulgences, then a cup of coffee that your well-intentioned server is kind enough to top off a few times. Since it’s so nice out, you decide to go people-watching in the park, after which you’ll walk the river trail, grab a hot dog from a street vendor, and window shop on St. Mark’s Place.

That’s the plan, anyway.

By the time you reach the park, your bladder has started to nudge you and say, “Hey, genius, maybe that last refill wasn't such a hot idea.”

By the time you hit the river trail, a small child appears to be tap dancing on your kidneys with every step.

Finally, you reach St. Mark's place. You waddle past a store window, spy a small water feature in the display, and keel over dead in a puddle of urine.

Which brings me to my second Urban Survival Tip: KNOW YOUR PUBLIC BATHROOMS.

In retrospect, hitting Dunkin' Donuts was a poor choice.

If you're used to popping a squat behind any old tree, this may seem odd at first. Be patient. It took a little adjusting for me, but I'm starting to figure it out. Here are a few nuggets of my hard-won wisdom.

1. Have a game plan. Plan your route through the park to pass by one of the restroom buildings, have a sit-down lunch or hit a museum.

2. Keep a mental (or actual) Rolodex of restrooms in places you frequent. I spend a great deal of time way out in Canarsie, Brooklyn, because it's the neighborhood I report on for school. There's a McDonald's a block from the L train station on Rockaway Parkway that is my go-to place to pee. If I venture too far from there, there's always the beach.

3. Know your standbys. In addition to fast food joints, there's always Starbucks. A good percentage of city Starbucks still have public restrooms that are ostensibly for customers but do not require you to borrow a key from behind the counter. I've bolted for the restroom, done my business, and then made a show of browsing the shelves before leaving more times than I care to admit.

You're wondering if all of my urban survival tips will have to do with bathrooms. It's anyone's guess at this point.

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