How many different ways can you phrase the question: "Where's the restroom?" The volunteers at the information booth at the new Salt Lake County Government Complex (at 21st South and State streets) know the answer to that question and a multitude of others.

The modern government office complex can be a confusing encounter for the first-time visitor. But the core of dedicated volunteers who man the information booth during working hours are there to direct county patrons to the services they need.Ruth Coates worked for Utah State Extension Service for 40 years before she retired. About one year later she was at a 4-H banquet sitting near Salt Lake County volunteer coordinator Marilyn Kelsey and remarked, "I guess it's about time for me to get busy again." Kelsey said, "Have I got a project for you!" And Coates found herself in charge of the information booth and discovering all the euphemisms for "restroom."

"They'll ask for everything from `latrine' to `powder room' or `little girl's room,' " laughed Coates. "Sometimes we're asked if there's a drug store in the building or a magazine stand," she said.

But more importantly, the information booth volunteers greet citizens who may be headed for a marriage license or tax abatement and assist them in accomplishing their tasks.

"We feel really good helping older people who come in for tax abatement after they're widowed or are old enough for a tax easement. It's very rewarding to be able to help them, to give them an arm and get them to the right office," she said.

Coates is responsible for organizing, training and scheduling volunteers for the information booth. In operation since March 1988, the booth has been a valuable asset to the government complex offices.

A few weeks ago, Coates and fellow volunteers Lil Beckstrom, Adrienne Gardner and Frances Lenox were presented with Salt Lake County's Vital Volunteer Award during the regular meeting of the County Commission. Between them, the four have volunteered nearly 1,800 hours answering questions and directing visitors.

Coates said additional volunteers are welcome to assist with the information booth. "They'll find it very fulfilling to have someone say `I appreciate your help in getting me to the right place," she said. Potential volunteers can talk with Coates at 466-7913 or with Marilyn Kelsey at 468-3337. Training will be given in meeting the public, handling a two-way radio and 1001 different ways to say "restroom."