I’m in a trendy bar in Soho. I’ve just contributed a sizeable portion of the joint’s monthly rent by purchasing and consuming a bourbon and coke, and I’m desperate for a wee. However, my attempts to quickly and effortlessly identify the gents is thwarted by the establishment’s desire to be “creative” with their signage.
Instead of being greeted by the universally recognised icons for male and female, I’m presented with a cryptic picture quiz that’s challenging me to decipher which represents a man and which represents a woman. All good fun if sat down for a pub quiz, but not so welcome if all you really want is to evacuate your bladder. It’s like being unwillingly thrust into a slightly more mundane Dan Brown novel: one man’s race against time to solve an obtuse symbology conundrum before he pisses himself.
What makes this scenario even more fraught is when the gent’s and the ladies’ aren’t in close proximity, so you can’t even compare and contrast and plump for the most manly looking. For Christ’s sake, I’ve already sunk several pints down the pub earlier in the evening, I’m in no fit state to ascertain whether that woodcarving of an ancient warrior is supposed to be feminine or masculine. Are those small breasts or pecs? Is it a long-haired man or a muscular woman? Is that a skirt or a kilt? What the fuck is wrong with the way everyone else does it?!
I bet you all had a wonderful time sat around a table when planning the decor for this delightfully hip nightspot, trying to come up with the most clever-clever iconography your creative brains could muster. I just wish that each and every one of you was desperate for a piss while having this brainstorm, because I can guarantee the consensus would’ve been reached a lot quicker, and it would have produced something that didn’t require a degree in hieroglyphs to understand. Because people that need to empty their bladder as a matter of haste don’t have time to get all artsy and cryptic – they like to keep things simple. And you, quite blatently, haven’t.
And don’t get me started on foreign-themed bars that use native language signs for that added authenticity. Not everyone knows the basic lingo! I once went without a wee all night at a Spanish bar because the only toilets I could find were reserved for the elderly. At least that’s what my drunken brain had decided the ‘señors’ sign meant.