Possibly NSFW since some of the lavatory designs depicted are of questionable taste. But what with the Aegis Australia call centre of Werribee in the news for docking workers' pay for loo breaks lasting over 90 seconds, here's my sustained loo break - a piece on toilets that appears in Issue 21 Apr / May 2013 of What Tradies Want in a slightly different (ie less whimsical and indulgent) form. It was sponsored by SaniFlo (in the magazine, not on this blog). The Zappa image was not part of it.
Though essential to life, the act of ‘going to the toilet’ tends to be a taboo topic in polite society, so we sanitise it with euphemisms and silly humour.
You might ‘powder your nose’, ‘see a man about a dog’, ‘drop the kids off at the pool’, ‘strain the potatoes’ or ‘splash your boots’. And you’ll do it in a ‘washroom’, ‘restroom’ or ‘water closet’ when it’s not a ‘thunder box’ or ‘stinkpot’. As for ‘loo’, from the French word lieu, it means ‘place’. Hence the folk song ‘skip to my loo, my darling’ actually means ‘stand by my side’ rather than ‘proceed in a rather flamboyant though seemingly carefree manner to the toilet’. Although, when it comes to toilets, ‘flamboyant’ is certainly making a comeback.
Since civilization has progressed enough to enable us to discuss a lot of things we never used to, we’re able to – ahem – ‘take the piss’ when it comes to making toilets. Vulgar and distasteful – but funny – urinals are a particular favourite, the bowl or trough frequently replaced with anatomy and religious iconography. Open mouths and the Virgin Mary/nuns appear to be particularly popular.
So are women, either watching from the wall, or as part of the structure.
But beware – going to the toilet should never result in getting the horn.
Not even if you’re an über-nerd and your favourite fictional characters have been incorporated in the design.
The ‘Harry Potty’ is tacky, but the bathroom in the Hang Fung Gold Technology showroom in Hong Kong has a greater inherent value. It’s solid gold.
As is the one located on the aeroplane owned by the Saudi Prince: it’s worth about US$2.88 million.
The ladies’ toilets in the Lemina Building in Shinjuki, Tokyo, aren’t made of gold, but they are certainly priceless. You sit on them, opposite giant carved heads.
That begin to sing. And start moving towards you. Good thing you’re on the loo – it’s so unnerving, there’s a chance you’d… well anyway, they stop when they’re close enough to just about kiss your knees:
If the experience is so scary as to cause an unfortunate ‘accident’, Swedish company CWS has devised the perfect solution: the toilet with the self-cleaning seat. Once you’ve finished, a small, self-contained unit automatically moves forward to cover a small section of the circular seat, rotating and cleaning it. CWS came up with a particularly ingenious ad for it, too, in which a young model attempts to ‘powder her nose’:
Another excellent application of technology is the built-for-comfort Washlet, manufactured by Toto. Its built-in bidet enables you to wash your nether regions at the touch of a button, without having to move off the seat, thus doing away with the need for toilet paper. It would be a welcome addition in those countries like Greece, where the plumbing isn’t quite suited to flushing toilet paper. That’s right – you have to place it in the bin provided; a sad irony given the ancient Minoans, on the isle of Crete, may well have invented the first flush toilet by having the loo at ground level and a reservoir of water above.
The traditional bidet – a cross between a toilet and a sink – began, in France, as a basin in which you could ‘wash yourself’. Intime, nozzles and hoses were added. But some cultures never required the bidet or lavatory paper, choosing instead to clean oneself by hand. Left hand, of course. Which is why all dining and greeting must be done with the right: it may sound poetically symbolic to be ‘unclean’ when ‘removing the body’s impurities’ with the same hand you touch your food, but in an age before antibacterial soaps, illness and death would be a likely result of such poor hygiene.
And it still is. In 2000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that almost half the world’s population – mostly situated in Africa and Asia – did not have access to “good” toilet facilities: they had no suitable way of getting rid of excrement. The WHO solution is the implementation of simple ‘squat toilets’ – basically a hole in the ground with a plastic seat above.
Grateful as we are that such issues don’t affect our quality of life, it’s good to know we also have convenient, flexible and affordable means to place a toilet - or bathroom - virtually anywhere. Consider Saniflo’s range of macerator pump units: by grinding waste into small particles, a 20mm pipe, rather than the customary 100mm, can be used to transport waste. Which means, if you’re renovating and want an en suite in your bedroom, you can have one, no matter how far away from – or how far above – your room the sewer happens to be. It’s so cost effective, in fact, that you you’ll be able to afford the solid gold toilet (or scary giant singing head) a lot sooner.
That’ll have you skipping to the loo, no worries.