John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Also, Australia tests the sewer system for drugs and there's a very suspicious-looking porta-potty at an Oklahoma golf course.
<Puff> <cough cough> There's nothing suspicious at all happening inside this Toilet Tuesday:
TO SQUAT OR NOT
As Thailand prepares to get rocked by a seismic shift in bathroom behavior, locals are expressing apprehension over the incoming wave of Western-style toilets. Over the next three years, the Thai government plans to replace many "squat" toilets in public bathrooms with seated "throne" types, saying they're more sanitary and better for the knees. (About 6 million people in the country suffer from degenerative joint disease, some allegedly caused by a lifetime of hovering above plumbing fixtures.) But in surveying average citizens and academics, the Bangkok Post found a deep distrust over the abandonment of squat toilets, which are reportedly present in about 90 percent of Thai households.
The complaints about Western toilets are an eye-opener to those who consider the chairlike loo the ultimate in commode design. They include claims like "Unhygienic as users have to share toilet seats with others," "Always dirty and break easily because users like to squat on the toilet seat," and "Difficult to maintain due to complicated flushing system." The seated toilets are also more expensive than the hole-in-the-ground models, due to their abundance of porcelain and valves and metal doohickeys. And at least one person that the Post interviewed thinks the "complicated" Western toilets are harder to scrub, saying, "I spend only one minute cleaning the squat loo and need over three minutes to clean the seated one."
This is the second time that the Ministry of Public Health has attempted to make the Great Toilet Swap, with a previous effort having failed due to a "lack of participation by stakeholders." The clock is ticking on this momentous effort. The government projects that 14 percent of the population will be over age 60 by 2015 – a 4 percent bump above 2005. Using squat toilets for this generation is sometimes "physically impossible" to quote one commentator, which really makes you feel for the octogenarians who don't have friends helping them take care of their business.
EXPLOSIONS IN THE OUTHOUSE
Did you know that folks in Oklahoma call a porta-potty a “porta-pot”? Also, that Oklahoma porta-pots sometimes conceal nefarious criminal undertakings? Both facts were evident earlier this month when employees at a golf course in Purcell, a town about 40 miles south of Oklahoma City, noticed a suspicious assortment of sports-drink bottles inside a porta-pot. They called investigators, who discovered that a Julia Child of tweakers had set up a small "methamphetamine production laboratory" in the tiny bathroom.
Take it away, UPI:
After staffers at the club noticed sports drink bottles containing chemicals inside the toilet and called police, it was determined the facility was being used to make meth by the "shake and bake" method of causing a chemical reaction in a single container, KFOR-TV, Oklahoma City, reported Wednesday.
Three bottles were found, two of which exploded before detectives arrived, the television station said.
"If someone would have been in the porta-pot when it happened, they might have gotten hurt by the flying plastic and the chemicals," said Purcell police Detective Cpl. Scott Stephens.
This is hardly the first time somebody's transformed a public restroom into a meth cookery. Last April, Alabama police broke up another "shake and bake" lab inside the women's facilities at – where else? – a Walmart.
FLUSHING THE EVIDENCE
How many illegal drugs is Brisbane using? Hold on a sec, let me pop into this open manhole and check.
That's the modus operandi for scientists at the University of Queensland, who are attempting to get a picture of how prevalent drug use is by studying the chemical composition of what's flowing through public sanitary sewer. According to the Brisbane Times, by studying human waste they've found out that tons of people take outlawed substances every day in southern Queensland, with about 1 to 5 grams of marijuana being consumed per 1,000-person block and ecstasy and methamphetamine enjoyment rocketing up during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
Wayne Hall, a professor helping run the study, says his team wants to find a cheap and effective way to identify booms in drug consumption in communities before they lead to problems. Though the project is partly funded by the Australian Federal Police, he discounts the possibility of detectives ever using the data to crack down on narcotics users. As Hall told the Times: "We need to hose down unrealistic expectations that there will be a policeman at the end of everybody's toilet outlet monitoring their drug use."