So why would I be posting explaining about what the word vacant means with regards to a bathroom?
Many years ago I had created a post about the need for a “vacant” / “occupied” sign that was easy to attach to a bathroom door. Every so often, I check the search terms people use to come to my website. It seems quite a few people are coming to that page trying to learn what the word “vacant” means when talking about a bathroom.
Simply, a vacant bathroom is one with no one inside. An occupied bathroom is one that has someone inside. Typically, you see this language used on airplanes. You also can find some door locks that automatically put a red mark on near the doorknob to indicate someone is inside, or a green mark to indicate that no one is inside.
You often see similar language used when referring to hotel rooms. You will see a sign out front that says either “vacancy” or “no vacancy” – vacancy meaning that they have rooms available and “no vacancy” meaning that there are no available rooms.
The issue that we have where I work is that the bathroom is generally kept closed for safety reasons (I work in a psychiatric hospital), but there is no indication as to whether someone is inside the bathroom or not. Of course, you can try to open the door to check, but that is annoying to the person inside, and a little embarrassing to the person who tried to open the door. When someone tries to open the locked bathroom door, someone will typically yell out, “One minute”, or “There’s someone in here”.
We still have our old system of using a sign hanging off the door that someone created many years ago. It hangs on a string and we manually flip it from occupied to vacant when leaving the bathroom and flip it from vacant to occupied when going into the bathroom.
It still doesn’t work great because a good number of the staff don’t bother to flip the sign. There is nothing worse than seeing a sign say “vacant” and then you use your key to enter only to find someone in the middle of going to the bathroom in front you. Of course, serves them right for not remembering to flip the sign. Or, it could be some cruel prankster who thinks it is funny to flip the sign to vacant when someone is inside.
Either way, The problem does not seem to be getting any better. Ideally, a lock the automatically changes from vacant to occupied and back to vacant would be ideal. Unfortunately, I still haven’t figured out how to get the old lock replaced where I work.