When you have to go on the go, where do you go? Yes, even the vertical of toilet search engines is rife with competition.
There may be some kinds of searches that are more critical, like when you have an emergency need for a plumber or a proctologist. But on that curve of searches that are both critical to your well-being and likely to arise in an average month, the need for a good bathroom search engine hits that sweet spot; parents with young children will find such engines especially useful. It's time to seek out the No. 1 bathroom search engine, even when you really need number two.
Divorcing Ms. P
MizPee, the first such engine I heard of, works for San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Manhattan. I had used it once before successfully, but when I tried my home intersection (28th St and 3rd Ave) or ZIP code from my Samsung Omnia, it couldn't locate me. It worked better when I entered my building number, though the first location that came up was a children's barbershop, which I'd probably avoid, especially since I don't have kids. The barber's bathroom was rated five rolls of toilet paper, but it was from a single anonymous rating, and I wasn't sure how many rolls could be awarded. Could the owner have tried to game the system? To make matters worse, the first Starbucks it listed didn't exist, the map didn't work even for the wrong address, and there is one closer than it indicated (I should know; I live above one). Rating: 2 squares out of 5.
Bling for your Bottom
When entering my ZIP code on "premier toilet search engine" Diaroogle, the results were generally five blocks from me, which won't help in case of an emergency. But if you know your ZIP code, you're probably near home or work and have easy access to facilities. Diaroogle fared much better when searching by address, bringing up the first listing for a bar across the street, with a description that included so much detail it noted high quality toilets are downstairs, as opposed to the more pedestrian ground-level stalls. Another plus: very clear Google maps. The site did miss quite a few other restrooms nearby. Then again, the descriptions for some locations are so good, they make great bathroom reading material. Consider another bar described as "about as charming as TGI Fridays... in West Virginia." An iPhone app is also available. Rating: 3.5 squares.
Short a Potty
Safe2Pee.org says it's in beta and means it. This site isn't yet ready for mobile, or for mass usage. In all of New York, it has 35 listings, disproportionately in the West Village. Rating: Half a square. I considered another half but it stuck to my shoe.
Vortegh e Zugarane?
What about word of mouth? I downloaded the Where's the Bathroom iPhone app that will play a recording of the phrase "Where's the bathroom?" in sixteen languages. Some of the world's most spoken languages are missing, so you won't have any luck learning the question in Hindi, Bengali, or Japanese. But if you happen to run into some Armenians or Mongolians and want a polite way to excuse yourself, this app will serve you well for a mere 99 cents. Rating: 1.5 squares.
Please Don't Squeeze the App
Where's the Bathroom was one of the four apps that came up in a search for "bathroom" in the iPhone store; the other three were for bathroom diversions so you could have something to do when you got there. I had read about another app sponsored by Charmin, but it wasn't coming up under the brand name or "bathroom." I did find it by searching for "sit," which led me to SitOrSquat.
The Charmin app asked me to register, but I'd imagine that wouldn't be my first priority if I was accessing such an app in a time of need. I skipped that and it brought up a number of bathrooms within a block or two, noting for quite a number of them which ones were open, with pictures for the vast majority. A separate option listed bathrooms with changing tables (the nearest one was a bookstore a few blocks away whose bathroom was rated two stars for being "surprisingly unclean"). There weren't many ratings ye, but I'd easily go with this. You can also find it at SitorSquat.com. Rating: 4.5 squares.
Goo Doo, 'Hoo Doo
So what about the major search engines? Trying the mobile versions of Google and Yahoo, all I get are home renovation and real estate sites. Rating: 0 squares. When you've got to go, go to a specialist.