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The only public restroom in Basse Ville (Lower Town) of Old Quebec to my knowledge is the one off Rue Dalhousie near Rue Des Traversiers. It is snugly located between two quaint shops in a row of very old buildings, just on the edge of the tourist area.

The entrance sits atop a weathered staircase, leading into the long narrow room that can be called little more than a hallway. There is little to say about it beyond that which one might consider out of the ordinary. It contains only the usual toilets, stalls, sinks and so on. The kindest and most diminutive caretaker takes care that things are kept clean and well stocked.

Yet, many people are distinctly disconcerted upon encountering this unimposing little facility. Their source of agitation most probably exists in the pointed singularity of the word, "restroom."

In short, the restroom is consolidated; downsized; desegregated.

Ah, yes. Here in Quebec City an unexpected small step has been taken, wittingly or not, to advance the integration of human persons and to diminish the distinction of gender. An incursion by progress into the comfy heartland of separateness.

Visitors herm, they haw...they shuffle at the foot of the stairs. An indelible, uneasy grin spreads across the faces of some as they sway. For others, the consternation is so great that they forget the urge to relieve themselves altogether, and simply leave. But, the rest venture carefully, furtively up that time-worn stairway, and into this strange new land. Couples grasp each other's hands and enter together for the first time.

When a person emerges from the restroom, there is an intriguing elation on the visage. Relieved. Happy. Free.

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