One of the pet peeves of people, foreigners in particular, is having to pay to pee. And yesterday was the peak, with the pee issue peeving me more than ever before.
The kids had their check-up at the maternal health nurse, which included an eye-test for Makaila and a vaccination for Kieran - previous encounters had made me somewhat apprehensive about how both of these events would pan out, so I bribed them with a visit to the toy store. It worked.
Trouble is that in the midst of browsing around Kalikå at Skanstull Kieran needed to pee. It is a small shop and they had a loo, but the lady working there said that as they have to clean the toilet themselves they do not allow customers to use it!! I pointed out it was my son that needed it, and that little kids can't hold on for long. But no, in good Swedish style she stated that rules are rules and he could not use the toilet. I was furious, to say the least. Through clenched teeth I assured her that she had lost a sale and that we would NOT be back.
She directed me to Åhlens, a couple of shops away, and we raced in there looking for a toilet, only to be told they did not have one either. WHAT?! A big department store does NOT have a public toilet? Do these stupid people have any clue about customer service?? By this stage I was ready to blow my top, a rare occurrence from me in a public place. But I was just anticipating the trickling down Kieran's leg. I dragged them out of there, cursing at the idiocy of such poor service, when a kindly fellow-customer directed me to the blood bank.
In I went, imploring the staff to let my son use their toilet. And they did. I thanked them profusely, explaining how difficult it had been to find a public toilet in a short amount of time.
If I had been asking for myself, I could understand that a shop has a policy, and I wouldn't be thrilled about cleaning toilets others have used (mind you I have done it many times in my pub work). But I was in a toy store, buying something for my children, when one of them needed to use the toilet. Is it not common sense to let that child use it - do they not want to make money? I walked across the road and spent over 600 kr (100 dollars) on my kids and a birthday present. How stubborn and short-sighted can people be?
The other pet peeve with this whole toilet business is that it costs to use a toilet!! We were in the midst of a busy shopping district and if we had been over at Ringen, the Mall or shopping centre, we could have used the public toilet for the cost of 5kr (about a dollar). Again I say, customer service, do they not know what that is? I am there spending my money, can the shops not go together to pay for the cleaning??
It even blows me away that Åhlens in town do not have a service where they allow Åhlens card-holders to use the toilets free of charge - are they just not thinking or do Swedes have a toilet issue??
I often spend my days working at the State Library in Odenplan - I can be there most of the day and it costs me 5kr every time I need to use the loo!!! It just eats away at you. I'm happy to contribute to their costs - but let me do it in some other way than fulfilling one of our basic human needs!!
I remember when the Australian government of the time passed a law that no-one could ever be denied access to a public toilet, nor was it any longer legal to charge for their usage. I remember going in to the public loos in Bourke street, outside Myer, I was a teen and I clearly remember the relief - I no longer needed to try and hold it because I didn't have change on me.
Sweden wants the tourists, they want to attract professionals and businesses, but they are missing some of the basics. Despite the common habits of the locals - it is NOT OK for men to pee on the street, in lifts, or in any corner they can hide, it is NOT OK for teens to spit big globs on the pavement, it is NOT OK to spit out tobacco on the street, it is NOT OK to charge to go to the toilet and it is NOT OK to have so few public toilets.
It is time they cleaned up their act!!
Ok, I will get off my loo, ooops, I mean soap box!