Charmin Treats New Yorkers to Clean Public Toilets

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New public bathrooms have opened in Times Square, to the relief of New Yorkers and holiday tourists. They're free, they have waiting rooms with a TV and a fireplace and they have 30 workers on clean-up detail. The rest rooms are sponsored by the toilet-paper company Charmin and will stay open until New Year's Eve.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In New York, as in many cities, finding a public bathroom can be a challenge. That's why shoppers and tourists are lining up for a holiday promotion in Times Square featuring a suite of luxury toilets.

NPR's Robert Smith takes us on a tour.

ROBERT SMITH: Up an escalator from the sidewalk is a plush waiting room with a fireplace, flat screen TVs and Cindy Wygall(ph), who's ready to do a little business.

Ms. CINDY WYGALL: So far it looks really nice. This is very conducive to using the restroom. Is it open? All right. Let's go.

SMITH: They have 20 bathrooms. This one right here has a changing station, four different types of toilet paper and, you know, room to move around in. If those are too boring for you, we also have theme bathrooms. We have one that's decorated like Grand Central, we have a Times Square-themed bathroom. And this one's my favorite right here: the executive Wall Street bathroom where you can sit and they have six different kinds of toilet paper and a stock ticker that moves along the ceiling.

SMITH: Of course there's no such thing as a free flush. The facility was built as a promotion by the company that makes Charmin. They hope to put their product in front of, and I guess behind, hundreds of thousands of tourists. Already it's a the public relations coup. Dozens of photographers showed up yesterday to watch actress Doris Roberts - she played the mom on Everyone Loves Raymond - do the ceremonial first flush.

(Soundbite of toilet flushing)

Unidentified Man: Good one.

Ms. DORIS ROBERTS (Actress): What do you do if you come to New York City? Where do you go if you have to go to a bathroom?

SMITH: Used to be the alleyways but...

Ms. ROBERTS: I had my little boy who needed to go to the restroom, so I took him to Central Park, which was not very nice, and told him to go behind a tree. Not good, is it?

SMITH: Thankfully for this generation of children, the bathrooms will be open every day until the New Year. But be warned: the experience isn't for the shy. Taylor Beekham(ph) walked out looking embarrassed.

Mr. TAYLOR BEEKHAM: They're asking you all these questions like did you like it, you know. Here, go ahead. Are you ready? Of course I'm ready. I want to go now.

SMITH: So the one thing they don't have is anonymity?

Mr. BEEKHAM: Exactly. A little bit uncomfortable.

SMITH: Just not as uncomfortable as holding it in.

Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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