Wednesday, April 29, 2009

To get to Heaven

We all know where cleanliness gets us. Here is an unsolicited comment that was posted to me recently by someone named "Jeff":

“You need to get a hand held bathroom bidet sprayer and you will be in Heaven. For those of us who really like to be clean it is the best invention since the toilet. It is so much better than a stand alone bidet..."

And he goes on to enumerate the reasons that a hand-held sprayer is so much better than a bidet.

One thing I didn't know was that if I cleaned myself off with water every time I used the bathroom, I would be in Heaven. You learn something new every day. And maybe it's true. I never tried.

Well, almost never. While I do have limited experience with bidets, there was one in my apartment in Italy where I lived while studying abroad in college. I can't remember using it for much more than a receptacle to place a make-up bag when we were getting ready to go out to the bars (it was very clean). But I did kind of check it out once to see if the plumbing worked. That kind of thing. I can't say that the idea of having water come UP out of the toilet-looking apparatus, rather than down, was something I felt particularly good about.

Usually, when I think of water spraying out of a toilet, it's not a good thing. I remember a Dave Barry column, from I think around 2004, where he talked about how invisible toilet spray from a normal flush toilet has a radius of something like 3 feet. (Hide your toothbrushes.) That was also the piece in which he described lighting his toilet on fire. After reading that column, I now have a regular habit of closing the toilet lid while flushing. Even if it's nowhere near my toothbrush.

But getting back to bathroom sprayers, I don't know that a back-end sprayer would improve my quality of life. But maybe Jeff has a point. "Moistened towelettes" for bathroom use have become more popular in recent years. Perhaps the old toilet paper just isn't doing all we need it to do. Perhaps the public is crying out for a better solution. Maybe this is it.

And the best reason to get a hand-held bathroom sprayer? "You don’t have to get up and move from the toilet to the bidet which can be rather awkward at times to say the least."

Thanks, Jeff. You might just be our TP messiah.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In the Running

Well, ladies and gents, since Marathon Monday took place in Boston this week (Monday, April 20th), let’s talk about porta-potties. In case you didn’t know, the Boston Marathon is the oldest annual Marathon in the U.S., first held on Patriots’ Day, April 19th, 1897. It begins in Hopkinton, a small, residential town outside of Boston, and runners make the 26.2-mile haul into the city from there.

Porta potties are a big deal on race day. Radio producer Ian Chillag ran the race last year and checked in with NPR's Bryant Park Project from Hopkinton before he set off on the long run, and what did they discuss? Porta Potties.

Chillag: “Urine is actually a really huge part of Marathoning.”
BPP: “It's twenty-six miles of urine.”

Their words, not mine.

The original Marathon runner, Pheidippides, what did he do? When he ran to Athens to announce the victory of the Greeks over Persia, did he stop to take a piss? We’ll never know.

Clearly, Mr. P did not have rest stops with tables of people handing him little paper cups or bottles of water. That would have been too easy. And you can forget glucose-infused gels that taste of chocolate (a very weird experience). No. He ran and ran, delivered his message, and then he died. So the story goes.

A statue of the original Marathon runner, at the Louvre, collapsing at the end of his race, message in hand. I don't know who those people are in the back. Obviously, they think Pheidippides is hot.

These days, people try to keep Marathon runners living after the fact. And it helps to take care of bodily functions along the way. Of course, Marathon runners have been known to expel all kinds of things while running the race. Sometimes there is just no time to stop. And when you’re pushing you body that hard, well, maybe you lose some level of control. But by that point, it probably doesn’t even matter.

A friend of mine ran the Boston Marathon in 2005, and she described to me the corral feeling of waiting at the starting line - they actually call them "corrals" - being packed in one place with thousands of other people, and needing desperately to use a rest room at exactly the same time as everyone else. And that's just at the beginning.

I ran the San Francisco Marathon last August. My time was nowhere near the winner of the women’s race in Boston this year, who came in at 2:32:16. But I did get somewhat close to my goal, and, bottom line, I finished the race - without having to stop once for the porta-potties. That was probably my biggest goal right there.

I did have to use one before the race. But a nice person let me skip the huge line, however, since it was approximately 2 minutes before my scheduled departure time (of 5:45 a.m., mind you). I made it to the starting gate just as they were calling my start group.

The Boston Globe reported that the 2007 Boston Marathon had 600 porta-potties on the course. I'm thinking: Only 600? That doesn't sound like enough. But that's a fair amount. And I hate to think what clean-up is like, but my guess is it not as bad as if there were no porta-potties. Thank goodness for waste management engineers.

Photo Credit, top: Ian Chillag, NPR

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Drink up

Last year, Rus and Char helped me when I made a piece for the Exploratorium's 2nd Skin exhibit and fashion show. After the show, we took a walk around the Mind exhibit, where Rus took a drink from this toilet bowl fountain. Titled "a sip of conflict," the display asks us to question our visual judgment. The toilet bowl is totally clean, and's a toilet bowl. Not where you are accustomed to taking a drink. Unless of course, you are a cat.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thrill Ride

So here is a little gem from Geekologie, submitted by Benn. Leave it to the Japanese to come up with...a bathroom stall designed to look like a ski jump.

Obviously. Because what do you and I always think about when using the toilet? Ski Jumping! Of course. Naturally.

Text from Geekologie:
"This is a bathroom stall in some Japanese ski resort that actually serves as an advertisement for a Coca-Cola coffee product (ad on toilet paper holder and back wall). As you can see, it was designed to look like a realistic ski-jump (or dump), complete with skis painted on the ground and everything. You just sit down, close your eyes, and imagine you're atop the mountain, ready to launch yourself off a cliff. Then open them and realize you've thrown yourself off the seat and shit on your leg."

I'd say this ad campaign is reminiscent of the Charmin Public Toilets, although I am not sure that I want to associate a brown beverage with a bathroom experience. I guess adrenaline rush is what they were going for. That, and a captive audience.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Full View

What do you do if you're on the first day at your new job, and your new boss walks in on you in the company's one bathroom? Well, if you're lucky like me, you smile, with your pants up, and say, "Hello!" While she makes a hasty retreat. And no one ever mentions the incident again.

Ditto for another job I had recently, where, again on the first day, I managed to walk in on someone else. That was reassuring. Luckily, my eyes saw nothing.

Bathrooms are, traditionally, a place of privacy. At least in my life. It's a good place to retreat for a good cry, to fix your hair, or just some time alone, even for a minute. Then there are the more obvious reasons. The ideal bathroom door has a lock on it, and if not, you really seriously hope that no one will walk in on you.

Then there are those who operate with more of an "open door" policy. I think, cross-generationally, or among family, maybe not such a great idea. But this seems to me acceptable in the right kind of romantic relationship. For example, the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman interchange in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. (For other movie scenes involving toilets and bathrooms, go here.)

(Image from Dr. Strangelove)

Now it seems hotels - and some homeowners - are responding to the trend of open-door-bathroom-going. While also perhaps looking for new and innovative designs, many up-and-coming, trendy and expensive hotels are now installing see-through bathrooms. Forget the door. The walls are made of glass.

Makes you think, eh? Personally, I like the new designs, but I am not entirely certain I want to see people I love - no matter how much I love them - peeing in full view, with no option of closing a door. Or maybe I'm just not open-minded enough. I need to be paid more money to become that open-minded.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Technology in the Toilet

And we're back!

Now, let us approach the subject of the old cell-phone-in-the-toilet issue. My own mother, for one, has dropped no less than two cell phones in various toilets (possibly more, for all I know.). She subsequently went on to use said cell phones after the fact. She has an unusual relationship with technology.

This past weekend, I overheard some girls talking about cell phones at the bus stop. One of them said, "They should make cell phones waterproof for people who drop them in the toilet."

And if you didn't think this was a matter of national concern, NPR itself reported on it just this past December.

If you've ever dropped your cell phone in the drink, here's a little instruction on how to provide emergency CPR (Cell Phone Resuscitation).

image: Corbis