Guest post: the act of making public spaces more accessible

Jenny Lindblad is doing her master's in Social Anthropology at Stockholm University. Her email is: jenny-lindblad@hotmail.com

Walking along Årstaviken one of the first sunny Sundays for ages, the air trembling of longing for spring, I came across an act, to my knowledge, without a name. 

In need for a toilet, I headed towards the shopping mall of Hornstull, being the most public of places with such a facility I could think of in the neighborhood. The atmosphere in the mall was different from some hundred meters south at the walking path along the water. The cafés and restaurants were crowded with people, seemingly just as happy for the promising weather, only choosing to celebrate this over something eatable. I went to the upper floor for the restrooms, just to find out that they were coin operated. With a coin of 10 Swedish crowns, the double of the demanded amount, I was too rich to enter and there was no nearby solution of how to split it. Conferring with myself on how to go about, I decided to wait for one of the occupied toilets to become vacant and grab the door before it shuts behind the exiting person. Necessity knows no law.

After quite some minutes waiting and just about to leave, I noticed a chink of light from one of the doors. Someone had left the lock in locked position, preventing the door from shutting completely and letting the following visitors enter for free. All enthusiastic about this discovery, I introduced the manoeuvre to the two women entering the restrooms just as I left. They happily promised to pass it on.

This seemingly insignificant act became one much larger, making the public space more accessible than it was before. I felt like a flâneur that day, aimlessly walking the streets merely for the joy of it. This feeling was disturbed by the meeting with a coin operated toilet. The need to pay for access to public rooms is at the expense of city spaces as a common place. I found the open door to appeal to the city as a collective good for the people residing there, no matter daily activity or economic situation. What is now to be considered, is how this act can be passed on among those of us in need of a toilet when, for whatever reason, residing in the city.