Monday, January 18, 2010

Indiana Kyle and the Temple of Porcelain Thrones.

“Today, the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet.” - Lewis Mumford

I’m sure not everyone will know who Lewis Mumford is, but I couldn’t resist a quote about toilets from a famous American historian/writer, especially since he was born in Flushings, New York. For the rest of you, here is a quote from someone a little more well known to my readers.

“You know an odd feeling? Sitting on the toilet eating a chocolate candy bar. “ – George Carlin

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will be well acquainted with my strange fascination with the scatological sciences. Over the last couple of years, I have been attempting to find a “regular” harmony between my body, my waste products, and the universe. The intention of this blog is to map out my search…no, my quest, to find the perfect environment in which to do my business.

Lets begin with requirements. Obviously, the first thing to consider is whether or not a bathroom has, literally, a “pot to piss in.” This can be either a regular toilet/stall setup, a line of urinals, or even in the most extreme of circumstances, a trough. Being male, the need for a urine depository device is not as important as other things, but it will lend itself to a more pleasant overall experience.

Next and most importantly, are the stalls. I am the type of person that will not hesitate to use a public restroom. When I have to go, wild horses will not stop me. Not that they ever have tried…okay, the more that I think about it, wild horses probably would be able to stop me. But I digress. A bathroom stall design and its contents will decide whether or not your “transaction” will be an easy and successful one. Lets look at some of the features of a bathroom stall.

The size. There seem to be three common sizes of stalls. The first is the smallest compartment known to man that can contain a 35 lb. piece of porcelain and an average size human being. The key word in that last sentence is “average.” I am much smaller than I was a year ago, but I still fall on the heavy side of the scale. When I sit down on a toilet and my knees hit the door, that stall is too small. The second size is what I refer to as the “Dumbass Design” stall. This is a stall that would have been a perfect size, but due to the odd positioning of the toilet, my leg is rubbing up against the right wall, but I can literally stretch my left leg out fully and not hit the left wall. This is when I usually employ the side sitting method and just deal with the awkward feeling of having my ass not conform to the shape of the seat. Finally, there is the best size of all, the handicap stall. It provides room to move around, ample space for your legs, even a handy bar on each side to grab onto during those tougher moments. I imagine that all of the stalls in heaven are handicappers. Now before I get a barrage of hate mail about using the handicap stall, lets take a look at something:

You can see the humor in using the handicap stall. I don’t believe anyone has ever gotten a ticket for parking their ass on a handicap toilet.

The Door. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to poop in public and having people looking at you. Depending on the height and position of the stall door, you run in to major opportunities for others in the bathroom to sneak a peak at your business. The ones that I hate the most are when the stalls are directly in front of the sinks, and everyone who is looking at their reflection in the mirror are secretly staring at you through the gap in the door, and watching you pinch one off. The worst I seen so far though, are the stalls with NO DOOR AT ALL. This is usually found in public park restrooms. For some reason, the park board feels that their patrons have no need for privacy, and therefore can forego the cost of doors and use that money for more important things, like providing little plastic baggies for when your dog poops in their grass.

The Quantity. I can’t remember the last time I saw a correct ratio of urinals to stalls. Maybe some of those huge, newly built cinemas have the best lineup. I can see the value in an ample supply of urinals, considering the unspoken man law that dictates an “every other urinal” approach. Can we do this with stalls? Nothing is stranger than sitting down and making brown, when some other goofball takes possession of the stall next to yours, and shares last night’s burrito buffet with you. Maybe soundproof, and potentially smellproof walls would make the most sense here.

Toilet Height. I had to use the restroom once at my daughter’s preschool, and I basically had to hug my knees to sit on the toilet. I was really impressed with how the school catered to the younger crowd, but it left me feeling a bit crampy. These toilets were so small that I actually flushed a few times during the process, knowing full well what kind of mess a clogged toilet of that stature would cause. The contrast to this would be the toilets that are so high, that you feel like your jumping out of a monster truck when you’re done. Nothing is more dehumanizing that being a grown adult whose feet are dangling three inches above the ground while you are trying to go #2.

Cleanliness. I understand that having something be deemed “public” means that you have way too many variables to deal with in regards to cleanliness. People from all walks of life will be sharing in your experience. Everyone from that homeless bum who hasn’t had a shower since the Great War, to college kids who just discovered how a beer bong works. Of course, nothing beats the Arby’s in Springboro. I’ve been in there three times to use their facilities in the last month. The first time, I went to wash my hands and noticed that they were out of soap and the sink had a funny stain in it. The second time, the soap dispenser was completely broken, and the sink remained nasty and dry. The last time I went in there, the soap dispenser was completely gone, and the only thing in the sink was a sign that previously hung on the door which read, “All employees are required to wash their hands before returning to work.” Hmm… I think we’ll stop going there.

With all of this being said, only once in my life have I found the perfect porcelain throne. It was at a mall in Kentucky, and I have to say that after I was done, I had tears in my eyes. (The tears were from happiness, not from straining too hard.) This bathroom had a bamboo/cabana theme, and the stall doors went all of the way to the ground. The sinks were nowhere near the stalls, and there had to be at least four of them. Every single stall was both spacious and luxurious. The toilet had the correct spacing from each wall, and when I was all done, I had plenty of room to stand up, pull up my pants and tuck in my shirt, without elbowing the walls. To top things off, it was clean. The sinks were spotless, and the mirror didn’t have a single spot on it. This was the Shangri La of bathrooms.

I will continue my quest for the perfect restroom experience. Hopefully, there will someday be a standard of which all public restrooms will adhere. Until then, I will continue to use them, and continue to judge.

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