For years, New York City was a grim place to be when you had to use the bathroom, since there are almost no public facilities (not counting Starbucks). But earlier this month the first of 20 high-tech pay toilets opened in the city, in Madison Square Park just north of 23rd Street. Now the next time you visit the city and need to answer nature's call, grab a quarter and head over there to experience the strange combination of a $100,000 prison cell/car wash/elevator/Louvre. It's the cheapest "experience" you'll probably find in the city.
When the $.25 is inserted, the doors close verrry slowly to give plenty of time to everyone:
What follows is possibly the longest and most awkward 20 to 30 seconds of a person's day. The door slips open like an elevator, but then it stays open, to accommodate those who need extra time getting in. Meanwhile, men and women in suits walk past. It is very difficult to look inconspicuous in a bathroom on a sidewalk in New York with the door open. There is just nothing to do but stand there. And the delay will not please those who are in distress.
Once inside, you can't hear the city because of the heavily dampened walls. There's a pyramid-shaped skylight to let natural light in—that's the Louvre part, which we guess means you can pretend to be a giant taking a poo in the shopping mall underneath a Paris musem. There's a black button that dispenses up to three 16-inch strips of toilet paper, a couple of distress call buttons, and the soap squirts out pre-mixed into the water for more efficient hand-washing.
When you leave, a weight-sensor built into the floor confirms that nobody is inside, then the entire room is washed and sanitized by a robotic arm.
"Greetings, Earthlings. Your New Restroom Is Ready." [New York Times]