Is a toilet still a toilet?
Text and Pictures Maciej Wawrzycki
Do you remember the scene from the film "Trainspotting" in which the
main character enters the "ugliest toilet in Scotland"? Most people in
the audience were disgusted, but some Polish viewers felt disgust mixed
with a little nostalgia. Poles, like nobody else, know how dirty a
toilet can be.
In the 70s, the government built lots of public toilets and recruited
so-called "toilet grandmas" – old women supposed to clean the toilets
and collect fees from the clients. A "toilet grandma’s" salary was very
low so they decided to concentrate on collecting fees, and forgot about
cleaning. As a result, public toilets became dirtier and dirtier. It
was quite common to find such a toilet which simply stank. Some
potential clients decided to "go to the toilet" without actually having
to enter it, so toilets started to stink even more. The golden age of
public toilets ended with the change in the Polish political system.
Nobody wanted to pay salaries for the "toilet grandmas", so they left
the toilets, which were then closed, but continued to stink. After
changes in the Polish real estate market, investors even became
interested in former public toilets, but they didn’t want to renovate
them as a toilets again. Public toilets changed their function
completely. Some of them became veterinary clinics and small shops.
Toilets located in the centre of Warsaw became nightclubs and were so
successful, that the mafia wanted to get some money from them for so
called "protection". As a result, some of them were closed again.
Nowadays, the remaining public toilets in Warsaw are changing into
oriental bars. So you can eat delicious oriental food in ex-toilets,
but you cannot do things that should be normally done in those places.
For this, you have to look out for McDonalds restaurants, which slowly
have more and more in common with their older relatives from the 70s.