Mar 052009
Authors: Soojin Yoon The University of Southern California

What does the word “recession” mean to you?

Outside of seniors searching for signs of life in a meager job market, chances are good that many in the college-age demographic have yet to bear the brunt of the economic downturn. Insulated from the “real world,” the majority of the student body faces no personal consequence in this financial crisis, while parents scramble to find ways to take the sting out of the imminent fiscal sucker punch.

One need look no further than the line outside of the 9-0 on any given night of the week to see that the pocketbooks and wallets of University of South Carolina students have some semblance of immunity to this much-ballyhooed economic recession.

But while full-time students have been able to duck the ominous recession cloud in the way of not having to worry about jobs, they might soon be faced with an entirely different consequence of this fiscal fiasco.

Earlier this week, in exploring options to cut costs in the current economic climate, a chief official for the Irish airline Ryanair announced that the company was considering charging passengers for using the bathroom, among other plans.

That’s right, the next time nature calls, it might be from a payphone – or at least while you’re flying with Ryanair.

A spokesman for the company would later dismiss this idea as pure speculation, adding that there were no serious discussions to implement such a policy. But it’s not that outlandish of an idea that this could possibly work out, especially given the alternative.

There’s realistically only a handful of people who would choose to pinch pennies when it comes to pinching – er, using the restroom. In times of extreme urgency, people would be more than willing to pay a nominal fee to avoid spending the remainder of a transcontinental flight with the shameful byproducts of their own frugality. Imagine the additional revenue that could be generated at frat parties if they seized the opportunity presented by premium potties.

The concept of pay restrooms is not radical. In fact, “Slumdog Millionaire” would have us believe that 5- and 6-year-olds in the slums of India are making a killing off this very business. Europe features its fair share of pay toilets on the ground level as well – why not extend the idea to the skies?

The answer, of course, is that the need to go to the bathroom is a natural instinct that cannot be neglected, no matter how cash-strapped a company finds itself. What better way to further confound declining revenue numbers than to tell prospective customers they have to pay for two completely different kinds of seats, in addition to any outrageous fees associated with checked baggage?

A full bladder does not discriminate across socio-economic boundaries; even prisoners are allowed free use of toilets. In the extreme case of those who choose to travel without cash, or those who simply think that the idea of paying for bathroom privileges is ludicrous, the only variable involved is where people choose to carry out their business, not how much they are willing to pay. Wouldn’t it be just as costly to have to clean airplane seat upholstery after every flight?

Luckily, paying to use the bathroom is a non-issue for now. The bigger concern, however, is that there was ever even a fleeting consideration of trying to charge for something that is assumed to be a freedom.

Simply put, this is how bad things are getting, though we might not know it as we talk on our overpriced phones and spend exorbitant sums of money on impulse buys.

That said, there’s no need to create any more worry in a time when airwaves are already saturated with sensational rants about the grave state of the global economy – the sky is not falling yet. But it can’t hurt to be aware of what’s going on and mindful of the current climate while we can still live our lives in the collegiate bubble.

Spending money with more discretion would make life easier for all parties involved. This doesn’t call for a radical reformation in one’s lifestyle, just a smarter use of the money we have now.

We should think twice before flushing any more of it away.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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