Um, Privacy Please!

Apr 25th 2019

Why are there giant gaps in the bathroom stalls?!

Whether you’re a tourist or an American native, everyone has asked this question at least once after walking into a public restroom here in the states. Just Googling the question garners a variety of responses from “I don’t know but it’s ridiculous” to wild, unfounded conspiracy theories related to the government.

There is a general consensus though — everyone feels watched, creepily, when using a public toilet in America. Few situations are more uncomfortable than accidental eye contact made through the gap in the bathroom partition door while one person is occupying the toilet cubicle. The awkward exchange usually ends in shame and cursing your eyeballs for so boldly looking up from the floor.

Believe it or not, there is a reason for the drafty bathroom partitions.

In fact, according to the ARA (American Restroom Association) there are several. Today, we’re going to break down the reasons our toilet cubicles don’t offer the privacy most Americans crave when “taking care of business.” The answers may shock you, but you’ll never again be left sitting in anguish, wondering why the opportunity for such embarrassing eye contact is so present in your daily life.

Queue The People

The most shocking reason is actually the most important reason in the minds of the ARA. The Association says that the restroom stalls should have “devices that signal occupancy” and that the occupancy of a stall should be immediately visible and obvious to others. This will prevent people from forming an unnecessary queue. They don’t explicitly state this “device” should be composed of sizable gaps and human eyeballs.

However, in the same paragraph, the ARA does express the necessity for alignment allowances in the partition structure. Normally over time, due to constant use, the doors of the stall will loosen or the partition frame will become misaligned. By creating large spaces that allow for the integrity of the structure to stay intact under heavy use, patrons can also easily see if the stall is occupied or not — killing two birds with one stone.

Safety In Numbers

The other main reason for the lack of privacy in bathroom stalls can be directly related to the old adage, “safety in numbers.” If someone were to be lying in wait or worse, attacking another person in the bathroom, the loosely fitted partition structure would allow visibility of the crime. This means the police can locate the danger without needing to spend time investigating every individual cubicle. Additionally, the higher visibility reduces the likelihood of criminal activities, given the lack of opportunity for privacy.

Restroom Stalls & All

There you have it! Now you know the exact reason for the large spaces and lack of privacy in public restrooms; you’re supposed to be able to make eye contact with strangers, so you know that they’re busy doing what they’re supposed to be in there. Next time someone asks, you can answer that spacious bathroom partitions are considered compliant with proper public restroom design in the United States. If you’re looking to renovate, improve, or build your own commercial bathroom, Restroom Stalls and All can help. Contact us to get started today!