Like most things in life, a trip to a local office of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles is all about timing.
My last trip was a snap. On a snowy Wednesday afternoon in February, I walked into the Fairlawn deputy registrar’s office about a half-hour before closing and was the only customer in the whole place.
But I’ve also walked into BMVs where it appeared that all 7.9 million licensed drivers in Ohio were queued up ahead of me.
So, yes, it depends where you go and when. But when it’s bad, it’s really bad.
And when you’re 83, and you have an endless wait, and you hear the call of nature, and you discover the place doesn’t offer a public restroom, well, that can be extremely un-nirvana-ish.
Although the passing of the years tends to increase the frequency of nature’s calls, this issue certainly isn’t limited to the upper end of the demographic spectrum.
As 83-year-old John Rohal puts it, “I thought, ‘Maybe it’s not just me. Maybe it’s everybody else who has kidneys and bladders and stuff like that.’?”
Which would seem to cover a significant percentage of Ohio drivers.
Rohal lives in Rootstown. The nearest BMV is in Ravenna. When he went there March 11, he walked into a mob scene. So he figured he’d try another BMV that was fairly close, in Streetsboro.
That office was crowded as well, and he soon realized his bladder would need to empty long before he would be able to smile for the camera. So he asked a clerk where the restroom was — and was told there was no public restroom.
“I thought, ‘That’s a heck of a way to cut down on overhead.’?”
Rohal figures a place that serves the public should have public facilities. No kidding. Especially when the public is paying for the entire operation.
It’s not as if a visit to the BMV is optional. Yes, you can renew your license tags by mail, but to get a new driver’s license you have to go in person.
“I almost had a notion that I’ll hook up something and run it down my pant leg and then just piddle on the floor,” Rohal says with a laugh. “You know what I’m saying?”
So what gives?
Lindsey Bohrer, a spokesman for the BMV in Columbus, says deputy registrars are required to have restrooms available for public use.
Some BMV locations are leased directly by the state and some are leased by the deputy registrars themselves. Both must have toilets available for people like John Rohal.
Bohrer cites Appendix 2.1 in the requirements for deputy-provided sites:
“In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the BMV requires every deputy-provided site to have at least one ADA accessible restroom facility available for use by employees of the license agency and customers, upon request.”
Bohrer says the bathroom doesn’t necessarily have to be right in the BMV office. If the office is inside an enclosed mall or part of a larger suite of offices that share toilets, that qualifies, too.
But the bathroom cannot be over the river and through the woods.
That’s essentially where Rohal had to go when he was shut out at the Streetsboro BMV.
He walked out the door of the registrar … past Signature Smiles Dental … past H&R Block … past Theresa’s Pizza … past Verizon Wireless … and down a small slope to the Burger King. Somewhere along that 100-yard walk, he slipped on some ice and fell.
When he managed to get back up, he was even angrier than before.
I found it difficult to believe a deputy registrar would defy BMV regulations, so I took a little ride Friday morning.
I walked up to the counter in Streetsboro and said, “Do you have a restroom?”
The woman replied, “No.”
I repeated it: “You don’t have a public restroom?”
Answer: “We don’t have one.”
After I whipped out a copy of Appendix 2.1 and said, “Do you know you’re required to have one?” she changed her tune.
All of a sudden, her answer became, “Yes, we have one, but customers have to be escorted to it because it’s back behind the counter.”
How would anyone know that if you tell people you don’t have one?
She couldn’t figure out an answer, so I tracked down the manager — first name Linda, last name “I don’t have to give that.” She insisted the customers were indeed allowed to use the restroom but had to be accompanied.
OK, but how would anyone know that if they’re initially told there’s no public restroom? It’s not as if the general public walks around with a copy of Appendix 2.1.
“Right. We have a handicap-accessible restroom.”
But the general public can’t use it?
“We have to escort them back there because they’re behind the counter.”
But you guys didn’t tell my 83-year-old reader that, and you didn’t tell me that.
“Well, we have to escort them back there, because it’s behind the counter.”
Phrasing the question differently continued to elicit non-answer answers.
Put your money on this: The folks at the BMV in Streetsboro have been routinely telling customers there’s no bathroom because the employees just didn’t want to deal with it.
I’m told that Linda No-Name will be getting a call from Columbus.
Maybe next time an 83-year-old man won’t try to walk 100 unnecessary yards and fall on the ice.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31