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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Tired of waiting

Sid Shroyer

I drove down to Walkerton the other day on an errand and because leaving the house is a break in my routine I had to stop at the Lucky Mart in North Liberty to go to the bathroom. I had to go. There were two restrooms, one labelled “Men” and the other labelled “Women” and of course the one labelled for my gender was locked. I had to go. Now. I checked, furtively glanced I think we call that, the back of the Lucky Mart, which is where the rest rooms are, and no one was near so I tried the knob on the door labeled “Women” and when it turned I looked around again, and then I opened the door and I went in and did my business. It was, in fact, the women’s rest room that I was in, but I didn’t notice a difference there, between my expectations and reality, in terms of what I would expect to find in the customer restroom accommodations at the North Liberty Lucky Mart on a rainy Friday morning. It looked like what I have seen in convenience market gas station restrooms labeled “Men,” and “Gentlemen,” and “Hombres,” and “Cowboys” all over this great land. Fortunately for me, the North Liberty police department and the Indiana legislature were busy elsewhere that day and after my business was complete and, of course, I washed my hands, in the same sink that women use, I safely returned to my vehicle and drove on to my appointed errand in Walkerton. No harm, no….. well, maybe a little bit of …. foul.

I do not understand why single use public restrooms need to be labeled by gender. If the Lucky Mart in North Liberty is gracious enough to provide two restrooms, and I do want to thank them for that, there’s no good reason why the Lucky Mart folks can’t put everything that people need in both rooms so that if one restroom is in use the other is available to the poor guy who is not used to leaving the house anymore ever since he retired and covid hit, so he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder on the way in, and sheepishly on the way out, the next time he’s in North Liberty on the way to Walkerton and he really has to go.

We have two restrooms at my house, one upstairs and one in the basement, and each is available to anyone inside who needs one, with the only stipulation being that you can’t use the one that someone else is using at the same time. If that is the case, then you should use the other one. It’s common sense. I’m here today to recommend that policy for the Lucky Mart in North Liberty. And all the other Lucky Marts and not Lucky Marts everywhere.

Sid Shroyer

While I’m here and I have two minutes left, I’d also like to suggest that since gender specificity is waning, now would be a good time to accommodate the use of the non-gender specific “they” and “them” as singular third person pronouns, since people use them that way all the time anyway. It wouldn’t take a law or a ruling, just let it happen. Stand back and stand down. Form follows function and in a society that truly values individuals regardless of gender there’s no need for gender specific pronouns, that I can think of, anyway. Am I missing something? You can tell it’s already headed in that direction when I say, “Did you make a reservation?” and someone says, “They aren’t answering the phone,” when we all know only one person answers a phone. “They” is already singular in common usage so why don’t we just go with that? “You” is sometimes singular and at other times it’s plural and it’s not gender specific, either, and that’s okay with everybody. Somehow we’re able to figure that out.

History teachers that language evolves, I learned in a linguistics class once, in the direction of slang, sometimes known as the irregular. Rather than think of slang and the irregular as a weed that needs to be eradicated we ought to recognize it as the form following function language of the future.

Back in that linguistics class, there was a story that if a group of Americans fell victim to a broken airplane and crash landed on a deserted island just about anywhere people wouldn’t think to look, and stayed there for, say 50 years, the American English language would evolve along without them and they’d stay speaking the American English language the way it had been when the plane failed to properly fly. Necessity being the mother of invention, the language of the people “back home” would evolve into something a bit different to the point that some of it might be hard to recognize when the plane crash folks return after their rescue. The regular would have become the irregular. The world changed while they were gone. The language knows that and it will let us know.

We do a lot of stupid things trying to make a mark on the world. Maybe we’d be better off if we didn’t try to make the mark and let the mark make itself.

Mr. Lucky Mart, Tear Down Those Signs!

Music: "Tired of Waiting for You" by The Kinks

Sid Shroyer is a contributor to Michiana Chronicles and was a co-creator of The Wild Rose Moon Radio Hour, heard monthly on WVPE. He became a part-time announcer at WVPE in 2001 and has just recently retired from hosting of All Things Considered.