It has long been my sincere desire to make it to my final day on this earth without having an “airport men’s room” story to tell. Americans reading this will no doubt be familiar with former Senator Larry Craig and his infamous “wide stance”. The British translation of this story would involve Ron Davies and his “moment of madness”. My version of this story involves nothing so salacious, but, as I said, if you are asked “how many ‘airport men’s room’ stories do you have?”, the ideal answer is zero or, preferably, fewer.
My employer sent its top financial analyst (aka. me) to Philadelphia in order to do some financial analyzing. I landed, stopped at the nearest men’s room – as you do – and went on my way. I was about to board the shuttle for my hotel, which would give me some primo time to sneak in some CFA studying, when I opened my briefcase to find the Mother of all Shock Horrors – I had left my CFA book in the Philadelphia Airport (PHL) men’s room… beyond the security checkpoint… and Americans are totally relaxed about the whole “leaving unattended items in an airport” thing (actually, even today, North Americans are far less vigilant about this than Europeans – certainly less vigilant than the British). But there was no question whatsoever in my mind about the vital importance of this matter, because this wasn’t anything trivial like a confidential work memo or my children, it was my CFA book.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I spent the next hour dealing with PHL security, the US Transportation Security Administration, Air Canada, PHL custodial staff, PHL administration and generally visiting far more of PHL than I had ever known was possible. In fact, I am certain that the PHL staff training manual is currently being updated to include a chapter on “What to do when a crazed Canadian leaves his CFA book in the men’s room.” I’d like to say “all’s well that ends well”, but there is no such thing as a good ending to a story that involves roaming around a foreign airport asking anyone who will listen if they can help you recover something that you left in the men’s room. However, I did manage to recover my book.
There is one footnote to this story. As a Canadian who has lived in both the US and UK, I am well aware of my country’s place in the world pecking order: nobody lives here, we play by the rules, and we try to get along with everybody in the world, even though we choose to excel at a sport that is only played in about six other countries. In other words, we’re basically New Zealand with much, much worse weather. I get that and I accept it because I know that there are many, many wonderful things about my country that I cherish – even if they are unappreciated by the rest of the world. When it comes to English, we have opted for the diplomatic solution of: “Let’s take all of the differences between the English that they speak in the UK and the English that they speak in the US and go with the British English expression/spelling half the time and the American English expression/spelling the other half of the time.” It’s who we are and we are unlikely to change.
So it is not often that I get to stick my head up proudly and feel simultaneously superior to both the British and Americans, but – ironically considering the that the above story leaves me entirely devoid of pride – this is one of the rare instances in which I am able to do so. Why? Because Canadians use the word “washroom” to reference the facilities at a public place such as an airport or restaurant. What? Well, let’s start with my American cousins who frequently use the word “bathroom” in reference to the facilities in one’s home. This actually makes sense and Canadians use the same term in this context. However, when referring to the facilities at a public place, the standard American term is “restroom” (“bathroom” is less common, but not unheard of). I don’t know about you, but I have never had the desire to either rest or bathe in the washroom at McDonald’s. The British, in this matter, are worse because they use the very blunt and over-specific term “toilets”. Whenever I was asked, “where are the toilets?”, I felt like saying “I hope you realize that there are more than just toilets in that room.” There also “WC” or its derivative “Loo”. If I may be so bold: Britain, everyone loves your Cockney Rhyming Slang, even though if nobody knows or cares what “apples and pears” or “have a butcher’s” means, but the Battle of Waterloo was almost 200 years ago, so maybe it’s time to move on. Anyway, “washroom” is ideal because it both emphasizes washing ones hands and lets people know that it is perfectly acceptable to use the facilities even if one only has the need to wash ones hands. One day the English-speaking world will catch up with Canada on this.
With that, I will await my place in the Guiness Book of World Records under the category of: “Most washroom/restroom/toilet references in CFA-related blog post.”
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