To love New Orleans is to love all New Orleans – from the Marigny to the Garden District – and to love all her quirks. Like knowing full well I’m going to get a cab of questionable lineage from the airport to the hotel. Or that it might cloud over and rain at a moment’s notice.
However, no matter how many times I’ve been to New Orleans, there’s one quirk I’ve never loved and don’t know that I ever will:
The French Quarter restroom.
Any time I’m in a restaurant in the French Quarter, I have to ask myself: How badly do I need to use the restroom? Do I really need to pee so bad I’m willing to risk my health and well-being? Or is there a bar around the corner where I know I’ll be safe?
And I’m not kidding.
One would expect bar restrooms to be of questionable character. I mean, it’s a bar. What is alarming though is that some of those toilets have been nicer and cleaner than those at some of the finer dining establishments. I’ve had times where I thought even the trough at Café Lafitte’s would be a step up.
To a certain degree I understand. The French Quarter is really the heart of New Orleans and was part of the city founded three hundred years ago. I would imagine many courtyards sported outhouses. But surely someone thought along the way to 2018 about building a better restroom. And maybe placing it in the same building.
Countless times I’ve stepped down dim hallways, around corners, up a flight of stairs, or across a courtyard just to dispose of the hurricanes I’ve been drinking. No trip that I can recall has been a short step away. In one instance, I left a very nice restaurant, walked across the courtyard to the adjacent building, stepped up into the men’s room, only to look down as I’m washing my hands and think:
Is that blood on the floor? Did someone in the kitchen cut themselves? Did the previous occupant get mugged and I’m looking at the aftermath? Now I’m getting nervous but beginning to understand why some restrooms are so dimly lit.
And this phenomenon is not exclusively reserved for men. I’ve heard women’s restrooms described by female friends as “sketchy.” Given the odor coming out of the single-hole restrooms at some of the bars, I can understand why.
However, don’t let any of that discourage you from venturing at least once to New Orleans. For me she is still my second home, quirks and all. Even if it means sometimes crossing my legs and bunny hopping my way back to my clean and well-lit hotel restroom.
Cover photo courtesy of Cayetano Gil.