Friday, March 27, 2009

Public Service

So, for the third year running, Charmin's Interactive Marketing Department (I made that up) installed special public restrooms in Times Square during the 2008 Holiday Season. If we'd only known, we would have gone to New York City for the Holidays! There's always next year.

Meanwhile, in today's news, Charmin has now sponsored SitOrSquat, a clean bathroom locator, for those with kids, traveling, or who have simply had too much tea to drink and are out and about. Which is why they have made apps for BlackBerry and iPhone. They thought of everything!

The site is still in Beta but you can check it out here.

It's is all part of what's known as "Public Service Marketing." Marketplace had the story this morning.

But if anyone in the NYC area has had experience with the Times Square public toilets, do share!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Royal Throne

This, apparently, is a picture of the toilet system at the gatehouse of Basing House in the village of Old Basing, UK, where, reportedly, Queen Elizabeth I once placed her royal arse. Well, perhaps not in this spot exactly, but somewhere in the near vicinity.

To read more about Tina's visit to the house, go here.

I remember hearing about gong farmers, actually. When I was living in Ireland, a few years back, my family came for a visit and we went to an old Medieval castle somewhere - I know, they're everywhere. But I distinctly remember on the tour the part where the tour guide introduced us to the "Garderobe."

Now, this means exactly what it says in French, which is that it is basically a clothes closet. You could still see where they had the place to put poles for hanging clothes. But there was also a place for a wooden bench, with a chute in the stonework leading outside. That's because the garderobe also doubled as a loo.

The waste went down the chute, and it all collected in a big central cess pool, where the "gong farmer" would then stir the pot, so that all the lovely vapors would waft back up into the clothes closets in various places around the palace. The idea was that the ammonia in the vapors would keep the clothes "clean and fresh."

Mind you, these were also the days when bathing was considered bad hygiene because it might "take off your skin." Goodness. I like my nose. Am I ever glad I did not live in the Middle Ages.

The Great American Rest Stop

So, my friends who traveled across country this past summer (the country of the United States, that is), had some good things to say about rest stops.

Here is a picture of the "Fat Kiwi," their trusty traveling companion.

State 'rest stops' can take a variety of forms, it seems. They're very useful as emergency campsites for the night. Our favourite so far is one in Montana. It looks like a park, with restrooms. But any restrooms which are heated at 6am on a cold morning win, in our opinion.

Ditto for the heated rest stops. Especially in the middle of winter.

Ah, how we miss the rest stops on I-90 between Boston and Cleveland, OH. I know them well. With their mini-arcades just outside the door, and the sunglass hut, over there. I can picture their paper towel dispensers - or lack thereof - and their functional but useless hand dryers. Their long banks of sinks. Their black stall doors. And the smell of Burger King, just outside. We miss you, I-90 rest stops. We miss you all.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Urina Lot of Trouble

Guys, if there is one thing I don't know a lot about, it's urinals. And from what I hear, men and talking in bathrooms don't mix - that might also mean men talking about bathrooms, but to be honest, I've heard some good stuff on the DL.

For example, urinal height. It never really occurred to me until someone mentioned it, but seems to me this can be a major contributing factor to your overall self-relieving experience.

Which brings us to the topic of urinal mechanics. One acquaintance has informed me he did a photo journalism project in college on various types of urinals - 12 in all, I believe, from basically troughs, to - I don't know what. Unfortunately, the images are all on slides. Not digital.

And now there are green urinals! And we don't mean the color green. Our friend Vijay wrote this piece for the Christian Science Monitor on one company that is promoting the use of "waterless urinals."

Ah, how we miss the Mapparium. That place had great bathrooms!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Burning Down the House

Someone has a problem with outhouses. Specifically, construction site outhouses. What is it? Do they have something against construction workers? Is it a disgruntled former construction worker who rages against the indignity of having had to use a porta-potty in his working days, but was fired, and therefore takes his revenge by burning down construction site outhouses in Russian Hill and other San Francisco neighborhoods, thereby preventing current construction employees from relieving themselves while on the job? Or is it that this person has something against public displays of waste management? It could be a whole new breed of psychosis.

Police could dub him all kinds of fun nicknames. As of January 10th of this year, he, she, it, or they, were reported to have burned down a total of 14 toilets in that general area. And, "In some cases, the arsonist has broken into locked toilets to burn them, police said," courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle. As of February 10th, 19 porta-potties were reported to have been burned. The terror continues.

Clearly, this person will stop at nothing to prevent ugly blue boxes of sanitation from marring our beautiful city streets.

A Google map of the porta-potty arsonist's target locations can be found here.

"Burn, baby, burn!"

Monday, March 16, 2009

Snakes in a Lavatory

I recently made an attempt to watch "Snakes on a Plane" and failed. Not because I have a problem with snakes, or planes, it's just that once the characters got on the plane, the plot disappeared.

Sorry if I am about to ruin the movie for anybody, but I am going to go into detail. If you'd rather skip ahead, go down three paragraphs. First, the notion of getting snakes to attack people on a plane reminded me less of a fearsome mobster trick than of one of the old James Bond tropes, like in Dr. No, where he gives the guy a tarantula to put in James Bond's room, but of course Bond doesn't get killed by the tarantula. He wakes up and smashes it like any other spider.

The point is, animals are lazy. Why use animals anyway? It's a lame trick. But it plays off our primal fears. The creators of the show probably thought, hey, snakes are scary, planes are scary. Let's combine the two. But just because you like chicken and ice cream doesn't mean you should eat them together.

Anyway, back to the lavatory. There could have been another air vent, but no. It all starts with the couple having sex, in someone's most private, most vulnerable moment. If it hadn't been so ridiculously orchestrated, I would say there could have been a Garden of Eden theme going on there. Maybe there was. Here are two people in the throes of ecstasy, and suddenly - snake! And then there is another man who just went in to take a piss, and then - snake! In fact, snake on his snake! Oh, that was clever. As if the poison would not be effective anywhere else. But I think this just shows how we really feel about sex as a culture. Is anyone surprised? Not me.

I will admit, I had a moment when I was on a plane recently, going home for the weekend. Personally, I think spiders are scarier than snakes, but I'm irrational about that. I am just thankful that they have lavatories on planes, thank you very much.

However, if you really want to know, it seems there is a small problem of snakes in toilets. Since they are about the size and shape of plumbing, they have been known to escape - as exotic pets - or to enter from the wild and make their way into people's home plumbing systems. Why they would want to, I don't know. To find their own personal lake, perhaps.

This website reports that in 1999, there were 200 attacks of snakes in toilet bowls, 50 of which resulted in fatalities. That was up from 135 attacks and 35 fatalities in 1998. To get more information, check the CDC National Center for Health Statistics.

But what I love, is that the person quoted in the article is named Harvey Schitz.

If that's not a case of Nomen et Omen, I don't know what is.

Friday, March 13, 2009

One Hot Seat

Here is another good one from the annals of TIME. The Toto Neorest 550 (or 600, or whatever), combination "toilet" and bidet - or "washlet." I have to say I am a fan of the word "washlet." And I also like the way the company claims that this toilet is so advanced, it is beyond the word "toilet," but call it that, "if you must."

Oh, and by the way, it comes with a built-in air dryer. Now that's special.

Read the article here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Modern Restaurant

Apparently, the world needs Toilet. Or at least Taiwan does. This article from Time talks about a restaurant chain that is thriving - thriving - called "Modern Toilet." And what is the basic premise of the restaurant? Toilet-related décor - i.e. poop-shaped lights, toilet-seat chairs, and, of course, your food brought to you in a miniature toilet bowl. Of course. I mean, really, why didn't anyone think of this before? But my kudos to them. Playing with peoples' senses, pushing their boundaries, breaking the taboo of food in the bathroom not one way, but the other way - bringing the bathroom into the food. Brilliant. And apparently, people are eating it up. I'll tell you one restaurant I'll visit if I ever get to Thailand. Thanks to Michelle for sending along the article. I wonder what their bathrooms are like?...

Stand up, Sit down

So yesterday, I went for a jobs information session, which was kind of a bust, but I figured, since I was there, I might as well make use of their facilities.

The organization that I was investigating apparently caters to a lot of immigrants. Not to mention the building was located in the Financial District, which is not that far from Chinatown, and the classroom I was in, where the meeting was held, had signs all over the room in Chinese, with translations. I thought nothing of it, except, "This really doesn't seem like the organization for me."

So I went into the ladies' room, which seemed normal enough - except for the sign posted above the toilet, asking patrons to please "not stand on the toilets." And they included graphics to clearly show what they meant, in case you were wondering.

As Westerners, we are pretty freaked out by the idea of squatting over a hole in the ground. I went into one not-very-well-kept bathroom in France to find such a device, and promptly exited the facility. But what if that's what you're used to? I guess it could get pretty confusing. I guess it could seem like that's what the toilet "seat" is for. I'm sure it's all just a big misunderstanding. Or else it's just another creative way to avoid the germs on toilet seats. But they must have had a problem with it, or else they would not have posted the sign. Anyway, that was first for me. Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


This just in! Apparently Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore were recently involved in a Twitter debate about the "right" way to hang toilet paper. This sparked a big debate across the Twitter world about same, as well as many comments on the banal lives of celebrities.

Demi clearly comes down on the top-rolling stance, saying: "There is a "right way" to install toilet paper. Rolling off the bottom is NOT it." This is quoted very often, and not just by me.

My guess is, she would have her vote on the Great American Toilet Paper debate. I did not make this up. But you can get your own voting kit for 5 bucks! Support the cause of toilet paper!


P.S. I got a weird, voyeuristic feeling, combined with the sense of getting too much information and at the same time getting none at all by scrolling through Mrs. Kutcher's posts. She used an old photo of herself from some rather young age with big 70's glasses. I guess to be anonymous. Ashton Kutcher was surprisingly not clueless and actually somewhat interesting to read. Who would have known?

Lord in Heaven

We always used to say, when there was thunder, it was the angels moving their furniture around. I think when it pours buckets, it sounds like God is pissing on your house.