Looking out for number one

The unmentionable void in modern city planning

If there is a key statistic in Lezlie Lowe’s deeply reported and engagingly anecdotal book about Canada’s public-access washroom situation, it is ensconced deep inside, when Steven Soifer gets lost in some surprisingly appalling arithmetic. Soifer, CEO of the International Paruresis Association, is one of the few activists willing to talk openly about his condition, better known as shy bladder syndrome. Classified as a social anxiety disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s bible, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, paruresis renders urination nearly impossible when others engaged in the same task can be seen or heard. The condition has been mined for its comedic possibilities by more than one television writer, but it poses a special need in the real world for those who suffer from it. Trying to count off the proportion of the general population who, at least at times, are...