If you’ve ever driven rideshare or delivery for more than two hours at a stretch, you know finding a bathroom can be a problem. Locating a place to relieve ourselves while we’re on the job is not easy … there, we said it. We hope that was polite enough, but even if not, you still know it’s true.
At Gridwise, we want to help drivers by offering practical solutions, so that’s why we put together this blog post. We want to face this problem “head” on, and find ways to make life easier for drivers everywhere. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Why’s it so hard to find places to go?
- What to do when you have to go … NOW
- Picking the right places to go
- Technology to the rescue
- Innovation in the public and private sector
Why’s it so hard to find places to go?
The first cabbie who thought, “What goes in must come out” as he used his plastic water bottle to relieve himself knew what we’re talking about. We can’t advocate this, especially when they ditch the refilled vessels in the gutters along city streets. And besides, for women drivers, this just isn’t going to work.
Still, we see how this can happen. In so many cities, there are scant few places where people who are driving for a living can stop and use a clean, safe, and sanitary bathroom. As we all know, when Nature calls, we need to find a place we can use to honor the request.
There was a time when you could find clean facilities that cost a nickel or a dime. Put your money in the slot, open the door, and you’d be covered. Unfortunately for today’s drivers, pay toilets in the U.S. were outlawed by states and cities during the 1970s. Many feminists and other like-minded individuals felt it was unfair to charge for stalls, when there was no charge for using urinals. There went the nickel and dime access – and that was a small price to pay. Since then, the scarcity of safe places to relieve oneself while out in public has only worsened.
The pay stall/free urinal arrangement was certainly unfair and its outlawing was justified – but it would have been nice for all concerned if a compromise had been reached. Pay toilets are all over the place in Europe, Asia, and most other localities, but not in the U.S. This leaves many of us in a “got to go … NOW” kind of predicament that can soon become as embarrassing as it is inconvenient.
There are still a few decent public facilities around, usually in shopping malls, at gas stations, and in many public parks. Many of us have bought a cup of coffee – the last thing we need in this scenario – just to earn the right to use the bathroom in a barista bar or roadside diner.
You’d think this would be easier for delivery drivers, but not necessarily. During the COVID crisis, lots of restaurants closed their public restrooms. This left many of us, as we waited for food to be cooked and packaged, standing there uneasily, going through several bladder-busting contortions in our attempts to hold it all in.
So what do you do, after you slurp up that 32-oz iced coffee, but simply can’t hold it anymore?
What to do when you have to go … NOW!
Using the bathroom is the #1 way to solve this problem, obviously, because it’s very unhealthy to hold it longer than necessary. Still, if you feel like you have to go more often than you really need to, this article from Healthline will give you some tips for lessening your trips, including:
- Realize that your bladder can only hold 1.5 to 2 cups of urine before things get uncomfortable.
- Make sure you don’t have a urinary tract infection; if you do, have it treated.
- Use the bathroom at least once every three to four hours.
- Distract yourself with music, a podcast, or even a short phone call.
- Shift your position behind the wheel; moving slightly forward takes the pressure off your bladder.
- Keep liquids out of your sight, and of course, don’t drink any more.
- Train your bladder to wait a reasonable amount of time between pit stops.
And, once you find a gas station that will let you in the restroom if you make a purchase, do NOT get gas first. The sound and the visualization of liquid flowing from one place to another will remind you too much of what you came there to do in the first place.
Picking the right places to go
Seasoned drivers will tell you that when you see a place to go, it’s a good idea to stop there while you can. However, there are several considerations to note.
Is it safe?
Public restrooms are hotbeds for drug use and dealing, prostitution, robbery, and worse. Always make sure you’re in a well-lit place, preferably one that’s somewhat populated.
Is it clean?
There are times when you might not care, but if you choose to relieve yourself in a dirty loo, beware! Some rather disgusting things can happen, particularly if you decide to take a seat. Build up your quads and become a champion squatter, or straddle if you have to.
Is it sanitized?
COVID-19 has brought to light how important it is to keep hands clean and avoid direct contact with people who could be sick. Bringing your own sanitizer is your best bet. There are those among us who can’t think about anything but the gazillions of germs crawling on a bathroom doorknob. No judgment. We get it.
Is it equipped?
One of the cool things about pay toilets was that they were clean and well-equipped. Seems that the nickels and dimes people put in there were put to good use. But now that pay potties have become nearly extinct, you could easily find yourself without toilet paper, towels, or soap of any kind. Many drivers carry sanitizing wipes for their cars. Well, they make flushable wipes for certain parts of the body, too. Carry them discreetly in small quantities, either pre-wrapped or in a small plastic bag.
So … now that you know what to do once you get there, how do you find places to go?
You’ll have to be resourceful. You can try bars and restaurants, but most will want you to make a purchase first – and that’s before you even start to think about the possible parking problems. Some will let you go without buying anything, particularly if you know them, or can slither by while they’re not looking.
You might also find safe (and sometimes clean and sanitized) places to go in hotels, motels, grocery stores, other types of stores, and many office buildings. Sometimes there are even portable potties outside festivals, sports stadiums, and other public events. If you’re crafty and observant, you’ll probably find a place to go. So please don’t fill up another water bottle – and if you do, DON’T leave it lying in the street. There are too many other places around where you can relieve yourself far more politely, and with a clear, environmentally sound, conscience.
There is one place you should NEVER go, though: in a passenger’s home.
There are a thousand reasons you can probably think of on your own, but if your company finds out about it (or you leave a few drops on the seat and the passenger reports you), there could be big trouble. Drivers are not allowed to mix their professional duties with personal interactions when it comes to their customers.
Now, the next question is how do you know where the facilities might be? As with most things … there are apps for that.
Technology to the rescue
It’s true. There are apps, many apps, that have each and every public restroom cataloged. In fact, you can even leave reviews, add bathrooms, or report that one is missing. Here’s a screenshot from one of the apps, called (aptly) Sit or Squat.
If this one doesn’t work for you, there’s always Flushd, which seems to specialize in rustic locations. Never underestimate, in certain locales, how many passengers can ask you to take them to the trailhead. This app makes it easy for you to find the other kind of head, when you may need it most.
You’ll find more in your app store. These sorts of apps range from Bathroom Buddy to Poop Map. Haven’t you always wanted to pin your spots on the grid? Maybe not, but for some of us it could be fun.
With all this going on in your very own smartphone, you no longer have to fall victim to having no place to go anymore. In fact, in response to America’s public bathroom shortage, solutions are popping up everywhere.
Innovation in the public and private sector
If there’s a problem that can be solved by spending money, it’s probably going to be done by someone in New York City. Sure enough, POSH Stow and Go is selling memberships to people who want their own place to go, and stow some stuff in a locker, while they’re moving around the city. While it’s probably beyond the budget of most rideshare and delivery drivers, POSH is still pretty cool – they see the problem and want to fix it. Here’s what it says on the website:
“POSH Stow and Go was created to solve the decades old dilemma in NYC of the availability of Clean, Private restrooms, Day Storage Lockers, and Charging Stations. We wanted these services to be luxurious and private while being affordable. We think you will agree and we are looking forward to serving you!”
In Oregon, the City of Portland is doing its best to serve a toilet-starved public by providing what it calls, The Portland Loo.
And here’s some great news: These sleek-looking, free-standing bathrooms are spreading not only throughout Portlandia, but across the country. Portland officials have been enterprising enough to offer them to other municipal governments, so more of us can have a place to go. Those that pop up in other cities (currently 20 and counting) will bear the names of their new locations, such as Seattle (Rainier Beach Loo), San Antonio (San Antonio Loo), Miami (Miami Loo), and several cities in Canada (Victoria Loo and Vancouver Loos).
Not to be outdone, a startup in the private sector has risen to the challenge of providing places to pee. Dig this – an aptly named company out of D.C., Throne, has paired with Seattle-based CityBldr to expand its network of private restrooms that you can “rent” in much the same way you’d get a bike or Lime Scooter. Customers use an app to unlock the bathrooms, which are being sold as clean, safe, and sanitized – all the things drivers need. Chances are costs will be within drivers’ budgets, too.
CityBldr, a real estate location company, will use AI to help Throne determine where to put bathroom facilities. This is sure to increase the reach of Throne’s network, and it probably will also spur more startups with similar ideas. Let’s all be grateful for that!
As you can see, drivers won’t have to play restroom roulette for much longer. We hope you get what you need from this post, and that you’ll no longer have to wonder where to go when you really gotta go.
Gridwise tracks your gig driving life
Now that you might be paying for a membership or subscription to safe and clean restrooms, you’ll want to record the expenses, right? For this, and so much more in your driving life, Gridwise is here for you.
Keep track of your expenses by entering them as you incur them. Track your earnings and mileage, and you’ll get graphs that help you take care of your driving business, and look good, too:
Download the app to get this capability, plus info about airports, events, and local weather and traffic. Receive notifications about new blog posts and cool stuff on our YouTube channel, and use the Perks tab to get discounts and deals any driver can dig.