The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips

By Gerald E. McLeod, August 15, 2014, Columns

The see-through restrooms in downtown Sulphur Springs provoke performance anxiety of the worst kind.

From the outside, the public toilets are shiny mirrored boxes. From the inside, you can watch the world go about its business as you do yours. It's more difficult than it sounds.

I've watered enough bushes to be fairly immodest about when and where I do it. Doing it on the courthouse lawn, even if no can see me, made me a bit nervous.

To make dropping my drawers even more uncomfortable, the silver boxes are right next to the children's splash pad. Having the sound of water helped increase the urgency, but a 6-year-old pressing her face to the one-way glass pinched off any chance of relief.

The only see-through public restrooms in the U.S. were installed in 2012 to reinvigorate downtown Sulphur Springs, about 78 miles east of Dallas off I-30. The city turned a parking lot next to the historic county courthouse into a showplace park. In the evenings, players move 3-foot-high chess pieces across an outdoor board, while couples chat at tables under street lamps. To add to the scene, restaurants across the street have added al fresco seating.

The pair of $54,000 outhouses aren't marked male or female, and each has a stainless steel commode and sink. The glass boxes are modeled after Italian-born artist Monica Bonvicini's art piece "Don't Miss a Sec." You won't have to in Sulphur Springs.

1,202nd in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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