Letters from Madrid – Public Restrooms

While I never came across one of these facilities in Madrid, they were not uncommon in the rural areas.

In the last letter we were visiting the parks and open space. While out on the streets in Madrid, public restrooms are not common, but you will find them. Many times we used the bathrooms in the bars and bought tapas or cup of coffee in appreciation of their services.


April 18, 1996

Public Restrooms
Restrooms in Spain are interesting. They are all modern, no holes in the floor you stand or squat over so far, just regular fixtures, largely manufactured by Roca. The light switches are invariably on the outside wall by the door as you go into the restroom. There are a few with interior light switches, but this seems to be the exception. In the bars and other semipublic restrooms the light switches, that are outside the door, are on timers. They switch on when you touch them and turn off automatically after a few minutes, often very few minutes. Furthermore, the floor plans to most restrooms in the bars are an entry with a sink and air blower hand dryer (paper towels are scarce in Madrid), and a room with a door and the toilet. Sometimes there is a urinal somewhere in between the sink and the toilet room. I have learned that when you walk into a restroom in a bar, you quickly familiarize yourself with the surroundings, location of fixtures, and which way the doors face and the type of handles on the doors and how they open. This is very important because for sure, the lights are going to go out before you are finished with what ever you a doing (even just washing your hands). Since all restrooms in bars are downstairs below street level, they are very dark when the lights go out. The first time the lights went out on me, I was quite surprised, since I had only been in the bathroom maybe 90 seconds. I had not paid much attention to the door handle or where things where, so there was much groping around trying to get through two doors so I could get the lights back on for another 90 seconds. I am much more aware of things in restrooms, but am still surprised when the lights go out. One interesting effect, however, is you never have to wait long for the bathroom even in the most crowded bar.

You find public restrooms spread very thin, and often closed. There will be a few on the busy round-a-bouts and in the parks, otherwise, Madrid is as bad as most cities in the US about public restrooms. Most public restrooms seem to be modernized versions of the old hole in the floor restrooms that Europe is so famous for. In the mens rooms, of these subterranean relief stations, there are urinals on the walls with a steel grate covering a drainage channel the runs the length of the wall. As you stand at the urinal and pee, you can watch it drain out of a hole in the wall into the drainage channel under the steel grate you are standing on. Every once in a while water is flushed through the urinals automatically, and then you get to watch a river running under your feet as you do your business. I guess the urinals keep you from peeing on the wall, your shoes and other peoples’ shoes, which I suppose could create a bit of tension among the men if someone where to spray someone else’s expensive, fashionable shoes.

At least the lights don’t go out on you in the public restrooms. There are always glass block lites in the ceiling letting daylight in, I assume they have other lights at night. There is always an attendant in these restrooms who keeps them clean an collects a paseta from you. Laurie and Tristan always have to pay. I have never been asked, and I have never seen any man pay. Laurie figures they are easier on the men because they know they will just go pee on the street otherwise (a lot of them do anyway. It is fairly common, especially after dark, to see guys stop and pee on the street).


Up next driving…

Banned for Life

Imperial Building 01/22/2016. I put together an improved animated gif of the building going up over the past year, and replaced the gif I put up on January 13, 2016. Click on the photo to see the new animated gif.


It’s not the first time I’ve been banned for life because of my photographic endeavors, but yesterday’s ban was more surprising than when I was banned for life for photographing the Sandias from the edge of an Indian Pueblo. While the Pueblo’s police officer did not argue the fact that I was not on pueblo land, he had a problem with me photographing the Sandias, which he said is sacred property that belonged to the Pueblo. So he wrote me up for photographing the Sandias from the edge of the pueblo, and told me I was banned from the pueblo for life.

As anyone who has followed my blogs for awhile knows that I have been documenting the construction of the Imperial Building going up behind our office over the past year from the parking garage on 2nd Street. While city security staff has seen me on the garage taking photos of the construction many times over the past year, none of them have ever taken any notice, and said nothing more to me than “Hi!” when we were in earshot of each other. Yesterday, however, a security officer drove up and told me that I was not supposed to be on the parking structure, ordered me to leave, and told me to never come back. I asked her about people who parked in the garage, and she said anyone parking in the garage is supposed to walk to and from their cars, and are not allowed to walk anywhere else in the parking garage. Okay! I left, and shook the dust of my shoes as I walked out of the garage.

I understand that the City doesn’t want people wondering around in the parking garage breaking into cars, but I’m obviously not breaking into cars. Since the Imperial Building is almost done, it probably doesn’t really matter if I don’t do anymore photos of it from the parking garage, but I would like to finish the project from the same vantage points. I emailed Mayor Berry and asked if his office would give me a letter granting me access to the parking garage so I can finish documenting the Imperial Building to its completion.

I also went back through my photo archives and created a new animated gif of the construction over the past year. I had missed a couple of weeks of progress, which I overlooked trying to get the first gif completed so I could post the gif on the one year anniversary of ground breaking on the project. So the new animated gif is more complete and all the images fit better than the first animated gif. You can see the new gif on the post from January 13, 2016 at https://photoofthedayetc.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/the-ends-in-sight-a-year-after-a-ground-breaking-experience/

Castor canadensis


You can read more about what the Bestiary† from the middle of the 13th Century had to say about beavers at http://photos.tandlphotos.com/blog/2016/1/castor-canadensis


†Image from Bestiary MS Bodley 764. Page 43. “Bestiary being an English version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford M.S. Bodley 764 with all the original miniatures reproduced in Facsimile. Translated and introduced by Richard Barber. The Boydell Press. Woodrifge. 1999”