I learned something interesting yesterday — a functioning bathroom apparently is not an essential requirement for a domestic airline flight.
It happened on my flight from Columbus to New York, on one of those regional jets that has only one rear bathroom. In the boarding area, the gate agent advised us via a loudspeaker announcement that the only bathroom on the plane was “inoperative” — and sure enough, when we boarded there was a sign on the lavatory door to that effect.
(“Inoperative” seems like a vaguely Nixonian way of saying that the crapper isn’t working, doesn’t it? Makes you wonder what happened, and whether a miscreant tampered with the smoke detector despite those pre-flight warnings.)
Here’s another interesting bit of information. When you announce on the public address system at an airport gate that the only bathroom on a plane isn’t working and that people might want to consider that fact, you’re likely to cause a stampede to the nearest comfort facilities. Obviously, no one wants to be caught in extremis on a bathroomless flight, but there is also the power of suggestion at work. You might not feel like you need to go at this instant but . . . now that you mention it, and when you know that you’re going to have no options for at least two hours, you’re sure as heck going to try. In fact, I think some people in the neighboring gate areas trotted off to the restrooms — just in case.
Fortunately, the flight passed without incident, and the passengers made it through without any apparent problem. I thought of the no-bathroom flight that night, however, when bad weather at LaGuardia caused my flight out to sit on the tarmac for two hours, turning a short flight into a drawn-out exercise that would have been a kidney-busting disaster without a bathroom. Thank goodness the lavatory on that flight was “operative”!