Twice this month I found that I’ve found that I’m a better conversationalist when I’m waiting in line to use the bathroom in those bars, places, or homes that don’t have separate bathrooms by gender.

I guess it’s the combination of boredom, a captive audience, and the need to distract myself from my bladder causes me to strike up a conversation.

It gets me wondering if this is one reason women, who have to endure “the pee line” on an almost daily basis, go to the bathroom in groups.

But mostly it gets me thinking about an obscure piece of Caltech arcana.

In the North Houses, the bathrooms have urinals, stalls, showers and a sink. This makes them impossible to have a locked door/pee line combination. They were designed at a time when the campus was single-gendered (male). When they became multi-gendered, before that balance was anything remotely like a geek event, this represented a big logistical problem.

The solution, I felt, was quite clever. Basically all you needed was an old LP, a nail, and a white-out pen and created the dial-a-gender bathroom:


Just turn the wheel…like magic!

(I thought the bottom quadrant was quite clever.)

[The death of dial-a-gender after the jump]

The death of “dial-a-gender”

Starting with my class more women started entering Caltech, which caused the “dial-a-gender”, like the LP record used to create it, to gradually enter the dustbin of history with coming of a new technology: designated gendered bathrooms.

Basically after room assignments, our house—which due to a strange bias among the Caltech administration had been called, “a bunch of sexist jock beer guzzling assholes,” and thus had the worst ratio on campus—would designate one or two bathrooms as “Womens” thus solving the problem.

Well except the part where when you’re drunk you can’t quite remember which bathroom was designated “Womens” that year—and this particuler year, one of them was the nearest bathroom to the Beer Room.

After more than a few “incidents,” the girls of Page came up with a clever idea. They turned the urinals into pots for the plants. This way, when you stumbled into the bathroom, you got an obvious indicator that you were in the wrong one as soon as you went to pee.

I must unfortunately admit that I found this solution very helpful.

7 thoughts on “Dial-a-gender

  1. Psh! How conservative. Our bathrooms were co-ed. You just get used to peeing and brushing your teeth next to a guy.

    I hate it when the Women’s line is super-long and there’s no one in the Men’s bathroom. Can’t we all just pee together?

  2. @karen

    The bathrooms and the showers in the South Houses were co-ed. I forgot how it worked, but I remember it working out pretty well when I was there.

    Did you ever see Harold and Kumar? Would be curious to have been able to play “battleshit” with karenism. 😀

  3. @tychay I rotated out of Ricketts and I never learned their system if they had one. I was quite surprised to see a naked girl getting out of the shower as I was going in one day. I think that was the last time I saw boobs at Tech.

  4. All the bathrooms in Ricketts had stalls. You just went in and used them. They didn’t have urinals, so that was never an issue.

    As for showers, they all had curtains. You just put your towel up, stepped into the shower, pulled the curtain closed, and showered. If you were shy, you could pull your towel into the shower to dry off/cover up when you were done. If you weren’t shy, well, just towel off and go.

    So, yeah, all the showers and bathrooms were co-ed, and you just used them. The co-ed aspect was an issue to everyone else in the world, but not to any one in RIcketts.

    It was a system of mutual respect, I guess. It worked.

  5. @kitt Dabney house had a similar protocol, IIRC. Not sure about Blacker or Fleming. I’m curious how showering protocol worked in Fleming more than any other house.

    One fun game I like to play is to guess what house someone would have been picked into HAD they gone to Caltech. In Karen’s case, I’d have guessed Ricketts, (then Ruddock, Fleming, Blacker)—I actually wrote it in the comment reply, but edited it out.

    It’s hard for anyone to picture me anything other than a Page Boy (after all, I’m loud and obnoxious, my father was a Page Boy, heck I was a member of the excomm and the infamous w8rs) but I actually listed Page as my last choice in the North Houses. I wonder what sort of person I’d be had I prefroshed at, rotated out of, or been picked into a South House.

    I wonder where Avery House sits or how things have changed nowadays—has Page finally fully become Lloyd West?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.