We all like to have as much privacy as possible while we're in the bathroom. After all, bathroom stall doors have locks for a reason; we'd prefer that random strangers (and even good friends) keep their distance while we take care of business. However, the fact that public bathroom stalls have lots of gaps can create a somewhat creepy vibe. What if someone is peeping through the cracks? What if some grizzled head pops up under the door? We've all asked ourselves these questions with a mixture of bemusement and annoyance, but it turns out that there are actually a number of good reasons why public bathroom stalls aren't entirely closed off.
Consider the Janitors
For starters, bathroom stalls with walls and doors that don't go all the way to the floor are easier to clean. While janitors would have to clean each stall individually if their stall walls went from floor to ceiling, the open layout that most public bathrooms observe leads to an orderly cleaning environment.
Whether they're mopping the floors, power washing, or downright hosing down all of the surfaces in a bathroom, leaving gaps between the stall doors and the floors in public bathrooms gives janitors more room to work with. While it's always a good idea to feel grateful for the people who clean up after us, there's more reason to thank bathroom janitors for the job they do than the people who clean up mere hallways, offices, or classrooms.
If it were harder for janitors to clean up bathrooms, they might overlook potentially harmful bugs like E. coli , the hepatitis A virus, the common cold virus, or Chlamydia trachomatis. While most of these tiny terrors die within minutes of leaving their human hosts, janitors are only able to mop up the survivors because of the same feature that makes it possible to admire the shoes of your neighbor in the next stall over. In the end, a little bit of reduced privacy is a small price to pay for a squeaky clean restroom experience.
Optimal Air Quality
Public restrooms aren't places that people usually associate with fresh scents. Whether you're freshening up at the sink or enjoying a long contemplation in the stall, it's likely that you'll encounter a nasty smell or two during your stay in the shared loo. However, just imagine how bad the smell would be without adequate ventilation.
If public bathroom stalls afforded total privacy, it would be hard to ventilate them properly. The more open space a bathroom contains, the easier it is to eliminate bad smells, so feel thankful for your lack of privacy the next time you step into a public restroom, and it doesn't smell like a Porta Potty.
Always Have an Escape Plan
Who knows what might happen while you're in a public bathroom stall. No one can say when disaster might strike, but it's important to be able to escape to safety when things go wrong. Whether the lock on the door has gotten stuck, you've suffered a medical emergency, or you just remembered your dentist's appointment and don't have time for quaint notions like turning locks, you may need to make a quick getaway from your stall when you least expect it.
Thankfully, the open spaces below the walls and doors of public toilet stalls leave enough room for you to wiggle out in an emergency. Once you've made your great escape, make sure to track down the janitor who's in charge of the bathroom you were in to thank him or her for keeping the floors so clean.
Bad Place for Bad Choices
While most people want their trips to the public restroom to be clean and morally uplifting experience, some bad apples have different plans in mind. Whether it's scrawling feces-related graffiti on the walls or getting a little bit too intimate with someone of the opposite sex, public bathrooms can turn into dens of lawlessness in the blink of an eye.
However, the gaps that you find between the door and the wall in most bathroom stalls tend to discourage this type of behavior. People with bad intentions go to public bathrooms to enjoy a little bit of privacy during their dirty deeds, and the thought of someone looking in ruins all of the ill-gotten fun. If illegal drug users find their way into public bathroom stalls, it's also easier for law enforcement to track them down if you accept certain small infringements on your treasured privacy.