Reflections happen every once in a while. Sometimes deliberately and other times triggered off by a simple event, object or gesture. So it was for me this morning while sitting in the Star Alliance Lounge at Heathrow T1. I have been here before. In fact, I distinctly remember being here for hours while waiting for a flight. Plugged into power and catching up for hours. I can’t find a post about it (searched Heathrow, Lufthansa and Riesling for the lovely wine that captured my attention six hours into the wait – after 1700 as well) but I can even remember where I was sitting.
However, it wasn’t any of that which caught my attention. Rather it was hunting down the women’s restroom. There are two restrooms clearly marked in the Lounge; one men’s and one women’s. But I can remember when this simply wasn’t the case. This is allegedly a business class lounge which used to mean business travelers since no one who didn’t have a company paying the high tariff for the seat would travel in business. Especially not if you are from Minnesota – it wouldn’t seem like a sensible use of funds. Except for one time during my college/professional school/residency years on the rare times I flew – it was cattle car. Once, for whatever reason having to do with exhaustion, a kind check-in agent and a strike of fate, I wound up with a free upgrade. It also might have had to do with being well dressed and traveling alone. In any case, I was directed toward the lounge. There were no women’s restrooms; business travelers are men, right?
Seemed to be just the way of the world in the early 1970s. I can remember being on a surgical rotation at one of the U of MN affiliated hospitals. The surgeon I was with sent me off to change so I could scrub in on his cases that day. There were three changing rooms: Doctors, Nurses, Orderlies. Female med students, who it turned out were a rarity at this hospital for excellent reasons, don’t fall into any of those categories. When I failed to show up in the expected five minutes, one of the orderlies came to find me. Why wasn’t I changed? Where? The nurses had already told me that their changing room was for nurses (note the lack of male nurses in that time frame. And the fact that nurses are assumed to be female. It is 2014, and most of the time we still caveat nurse with “male” for the 20-35% of the professional who aren’t female. The assumption is not quite so obvious that doctors are male only due to the overwhelming numbers of young women entering med school in the last 10 years). Said orderly thought the whole thing was funny, explained that the place had a reputation which is why they almost never had women rotating through there on surgical clerkships and found me “the closet.”
That is right – a closet. Not the nurses changing room with lockers, not the orderlies with one of the guys standing guard at the door. And certainly not the doctor’s changing room where the male med students were more than welcome to change. Today? I would have just let the chips fall where they may and used the doctor’s lounge but I was not at all willing to rock the boat back then.
When asked why I was late I explained about the changing rooms. The surgeon was astonished. Obviously this was not something that had occurred to him as an issue. I suggested that if he could not get this resolved that I could change preceptorships so as to go to other hospitals. How would I do that? Talk to Mamma Pearl (Assistant Dean of Students) about this hospital not being “ready” to have female med students……
Fast forward to 2014. There are men’s and women’s changing rooms, restrooms, locker rooms (unless of course you are a Dutch military deployed camp. Then it is uni-sex with locks on all doors, stalls and showers. Everyone is an adult, everyone gets privacy).
In most shopping centers there are family restrooms. There are set-ups to change diapers which didn’t exist when mine were young. Some of the airport lounges even have a “child room” which I think is de facto recognition that whether or not you want small children in the executive lounges adults are going to keep brining them. The goal then is to keep them separate enough from the rest of the travelers that no one gets hurt…
Drifting around from topic to topic I guess. But I have managed to get caught up on all of my audiobook downloads, two novels I hadn’t gotten around to finishing and some nice munchies courtesy of Star Alliance. Their timetable download turns out to be a PC app but booking a round the world flight is easy and relatively cheap compared to a couple of round trip FRA-SFO round trips.
Wonder if finding clean bathrooms and changing rooms is going to continue to improve?