Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Bog Report

I know people who never use public toilets. They go at home or they don’t go at all. They can spend a whole day at work without ever visiting the restroom. If they go away for a few days, they say they might pee once or twice a day, but everything else they hold until they get home. I’m in awe at the size of their bladders and a little bit frightened at the possible state of their colons.

However, I can’t say I blame them. Using public facilities is humiliating. There are never enough of them for one thing. Queuing to pee is demeaning. People behind you are always looking at you like they have to go so much more urgently than you and you should let them in ahead of you.

The worst thing is by the time it's finally your turn the place is disgusting. Water everywhere. Paper strewn about all over the place, which is why there's none in the stalls. And it smells.

The average Canadian home has 2-3 toilets. That's more than the average city has for public use. My workplace has 2 women’s toilets in our section for about 30 women. The stench can reach awesome proportions at times. I peer suspiciously at my co-workers lunches to see what they’re shoveling in there that comes out so malodorously.

Out in public, in Canadian cities there are rarely public toilet facilities that aren’t attached to some business. And they’re usually ugly, not too clean and offer flimsy toilet paper on gigantic rolls that don’t roll, leaving you with a handful of tiny scraps. And the soap (when there is some) always smells like composted flowers or nuts or something equally strange and lingers on your skin for hours.

Sometimes public toilets have rough brown paper towels to dry your hands with, sometimes they have those completely pointless air dryers. Remember those real towels on roller contraptions public washrooms used to have? They were cool -- until you got to the second time around.

And, not to sound like Andy Rooney, but why do doors to public washrooms always opens to the outside so that you have to touch the handle to get out. I hate that. There’s nothing I like to touch less than public toilet door handles.

Calgary has a pilot project featuring a fully automated toilet-pod kiosk. I believe Vancouver has some of these, too. (Josie??) The entire pod washes and dries itself as soon as you’re done. It also pipes in music. It costs $210 K. It doesn’t sound very eco-friendly or very cost-effective.

Usually when we’re out and about we have very unglamorous, options. There are mall toilets, usually located in some scary, remote spot at the end of a long concrete corridor. They’re always dismal and not too clean. Grocery stores have some of the worst public facilities. I have never, ever been in a grocery store toilet that didn’t have something broken, no toilet paper, no soap and/or was revoltingly filthy.

Department store toilets are just as dismal. Gas stations aren't quite as horrifying as they used to be – at least the ones along major highways. You still don’t want to spend any more time in them than absolutely necessary.

Restaurants often have really surprisingly disgusting washrooms. Sometimes they store cleaning products, take-out containers and even food in them. I don’t eat in those restaurants. Fast food places can go either way. Some aren't too bad. Sometimes you have to ask for a key. It comes on a big hunk of wood or plastic. It’s usually damp from the last person. You hope it means they washed their hands.

I’ve never been in a McDonald’s washroom, though, that wasn’t immaculate. The only reason I ever go to a McDonald’s is to use their washrooms. I almost wish they served real food because I’d like to buy something from a place that makes such an effort to keep their toilets clean. And they’ve never said anything about me coming in only to go. Unlike Tim Horton’s who get really bent out of shape if you just come in to use their nasty, nasty toilets.

I guess if I had a business I wouldn’t want all sorts of people off the street coming in just to mess up my toilets. Especially since I’d have to clean them. I’m already kind of grossed out cleaning my bathrooms at home and I know exactly whose hair that is behind the toilet.

I don’t know what homeless people do. Why aren’t there lots of freestanding public toilets in cities where people can have a wash, brush their teeth, do their business? There are places to eat and drink on every block in every city, town and village, yet there’s nowhere to attend to the results of all that eating and drinking.

Wouldn't it be nice to have toilets that are pleasant and clean and available 24 hours a day scattered throughout our cities? Are the logistics really so insurmountable? I don’t know why some entrepreneurial type hasn’t thought of this as a private business venture. There has to be a way to make money in public toilets. You could sell advertising space maybe?


Hunters Glory said...

something about using a toilet in public disgusts...me i guilty i am one you speak...peeing one thing but anything else gotta wait!

Anonymous said...

I have seen advertising in a few toilets around town here...restaurants and bars.

Regarding holding your refuse: my ex-husband was (still is, i guess) one of those 'only go at home' types. He once held his business an entire week while visiting family in Texas. My colon would have spontaneously errupted everywhere were I to try that. And, one last ex- tidbit (b/c really, who in your comment section knows him?)...he pooped naked. Followed by a shower. Always.

Oh, the rank smelling soap...E's mom showed up with some hefty gallon of suspicious soap. Smells JUST LIKE flea dip. (only e uses it in his bathroom...and always reeks like a vet assistant)

Newsguy Bob said...

"...he pooped naked. Followed by a shower. Always."

I don't know the guy from Adam, obviously, but holding his bidnid for a week and then pooping naked, ALWAYS followed by a shower seems a bit obsessive/neurotic.

The Casual Perfectionist said...

When my hubby and I traveled through Europe we discovered the joy that is public toilets that you actually have to pay to use. Ugh!

I will say, though, in Amsterdam, my hubby could use the public urinals (check out my blog for a pic - search for 'public urinals' if you dare) without paying or touching any doors (they were designed to provide privacy without doors). Those of us who had to sit (or hover, which I'm really good at doing, btw) weren't so lucky.

Becky said...

I wrote about the self-cleaning toilet a while back - there's a YouTube clip too that shows the thing in action:


How can anyone hold for a week? I have a hard time holding until I get to that little "pee in the cup please" at the doctor's office; and then of course, I can't.

XUP said...

HG-Some great photos of a weird public toilet in Texas on your blog today. I'm looking forward to scrolling through the rest of your posts! Thanks for visiting.

OTC - I don't know how people do that either. It can't possibly be healthy. A whole week, you say? Boy, your ex must really have been full of it.

Bob - Ya think? We had a long toilet habits discussion at work one day for some unknown reasona and I'm tellin' ya, people have some very peculiar practices. People who look and seem perfectly normal otherwise.

CP - There are some fine public toilets in Europe. Also some very strange ones. I don't mind paying if that means it's clean and I have nice towels and soap. I don't think it's a good idea overall though. Also, hovering weakens your bladder muscles after a while, I've heard.

Becky - Kind of creepy/cool and unnecessarily complex, I think. Thanks for the link

Anonymous said...

Yes, newsguy bob, quite obsessive/neurotic. Just one of the many reasons to be an 'ex'.

Tiana said...

"why do doors to public washrooms always opens to the outside so that you have to touch the handle to get out."

I know this because it's my job to design this stuff!

It's a fire code issue, you can't have a door opening into a hallway because people would get smashed with it when they came out of the washroom. This is especially bad if there is an evacuation going on.

A way to get around that is to have the door inset from the hallway by a meter but pretty much nobody is willing to 'waste' the space just so someone doesn't have to touch the door handle.

XUP said...

Tiana - Wow! You design public toilets? I see your point about the doors. Why not eliminate them altogether. Some public facilities are doing that with kind of a Z or S-shaped entrance for privacy, but without the doors

Tiana said...

Not just toilets, but public space on campus, which is subject to the same rules and conditions.

The s-shape thing is again an issue of available space. With universal/accessible design becoming more of a requirement, you'll probably see more of this in the future but to have that and for it to remain private, takes up 3 times as much space as a door so places with expensive real estate or space constraints would not go this way unless legally required, which they are not.

Anonymous said...

Tiana - I still think you have a cool job. You could have a big impact on humanizing spaces like this...maybe doors that open automatically? Or swing? Or maybe we could all wear diapers when we're out and do away with disgusting public facilities altogether?

Grandy said...

I don't think this is just a Canada thing. I wish I had the strength to hold it...I have to go everywhere.

meanie said...

oprah had something about people who have germ phobias. to conquer their phobia, Dr. Oz et al made them touch toilets then lick their fingers. i don't get that - normal people don't touch toilets and lick their fingers, why make the poor phobics do it?

XUP said...

Grandy - I hear ya sista. We'll just have to express our inner anal rententiveness in other ways

Meanie - I think there's a rule somewhere on this blog about never, ever quoting Oprah, but in this case it's okay because it just proves once again how insane she is. Thank you

A Happy Downtowner said...

Oh yes it would be great! A bit of an utopia though :) it would cost too much to maintain them. I remember posting about that washroom last year. They're cool.

Me I learned to squat (as I said on josie's blog) and wash my hands :) and I don't have a problem with my bodily functions when I go away. Oh thinking about that guy holding it off for a week gives me shivers!

We're lucky at work that there aren't too many women for the washroom we have but still, there has been problem. Some "forget" to flush... grrrr....

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