“These Vancouver homes cost over $1 million—and only have one bathroom” proclaimed a headline in The Globe and Mail last week. Since it would be more of a news item if a home in Vancouver had a price tag under $1 million, I had to assume that it was the pathetic inadequacy of the toilet facilities that was considered the most newsworthy item in the story; and so it proved.
The headline linked to a video from a pair of newscasters in Toronto reporting for something called Business News Network. An overly-coiffed and made-up male newscaster, whose name was not mentioned but who had the market cornered in smugness, reminded audiences that “We’ve been teasing you a little bit on some example properties that highlight the sky-high property prices in [Vancouver].” The screen filled with the picture of a house on Rhodes Street, which the newscaster informed audiences was “An 800-square-foot sized home: one bathroom, three bedrooms.”
The “one bathroom” was emphasized, as if he was asking viewers to believe that such a thing was possible. He invited his co-newscaster to guess the selling price of the house, and she took a stab with $1 million. When informed that it was just a shade under $1.9 million, she gasped “For one bathroom, three bedrooms?”
“All these properties, by the way, have one bathroom,” the man reminded us gravely, before showing the next property: a 73-year-old, 1,300 square foot house with one bathroom, two bedrooms that was selling for $1.4 million. As pictures of the house were displayed one after the other, a helpful graphic reminded us it only had one bathroom.
Are you sensing a trend here? The third home was described as a “whopping” 800 square feet, and was selling for $1.2 million. “Again, these are all one bathroom detached homes,” the male reminded us, in case we’d forgotten how deplorable the lives of the homes’ owners must be. The final house was a 1940 home of 1,000 square feet, and after insulting one of the chairs in the living-room, Mr. Smug told us it was selling for $2 million. With only one bathroom.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I well remember a time when having only one bathroom in a house was the rule, rather than the exception, and no one would have thought it a fact worth remarking on, let alone uttering in a tone of pained disbelief. The three-bedroom house I lived in between the ages of two and nine had one bathroom between the four of us, and after watching that newscast I wonder how we all managed to survive such deprivation.
A quick look at the floor plans of new Vancouver condos shows that even the smallest two-bedroom affairs—800 square feet, or the same size as two of the houses mentioned above—seem to have two full bathrooms, while some three-bedroom condos have three full baths, which strikes me as verging on overkill. Is that strictly necessary? Have we become so demanding that the thought of having to wait a few minutes for a bathroom is more than we can bear? And couldn’t that space be put to better use?
The house my English-born husband lived in until he was 12 had an outdoor toilet, and that was it. Heaven only knows what those Toronto newscasters would have made of this: faint dead away, I suspect. The past is indeed a foreign country, where they do things differently; or as Cicero remarked more than 2,000 years ago, O tempora! O mores!