John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Here's your extra-sad edition of Toilet Tuesday, news from loos across the world.
Back up – this Toilet Tuesday is a disaster zone:
THE ABSOLUTE WORST, IN GHANA
When using a public toilet, people might fret that the seat is dirty or the TP roll barren. Few folks probably worry about the walls falling down and a sucking pit of brown sewage swallowing them up for eternity. Yet that dismal fate did descend upon a group of Ghanians at a public bathroom in the aptly named High Tension, a suburb of the coastal town of Kasoa.
The crappiest of disasters occurred on Saturday morning, with witnesses spotting people running away from a 28-seat bathroom as its structure caved in. A team of concerned neighbors responded to help pull stunned, muck-covered individuals from the underlying cesspit, but an excavator was needed to clear away heavier rubble. The rescuers saved five people, but it was too late for one man, a 58-year-old tro tro driver, who perished in the ooze.
According to the Daily Guide, the collapse may have been caused by a buildup of methane in the waste tanks, which can hasten sudden cave-ins. The owner of the bathroom reportedly knew it was in poor condition but hadn't done anything about it. For Ghanians who never want to step into a public crapper again, don't worry: A disaster official has promised that "all such dilapidated toilets would soon be demolished" in place of better-designed facilities.
A COMMUNAL TOILET FOR ANIMALS, IN BORNEO
When a tree shrew needs to take a dump in jungles of Malaysia, where does it go? To the public bathroom, of course, just like us!
Except in this case the "bathroom" is a hollow pitcher plant called Nepenthes lowii that flourishes on the slopes of Mount Kinabalu in the dense rainforest of Borneo. Over the eons, the plant has evolved an interesting morphology unlike other pitchers, which digest prey that fall into their water-filled interiors. The N. lowii has a network of bristles around its lid that are tipped with a sweet, white substance. This liquid serves as a lure for animals to climb up to the plant's “bowl” and defecate into it, fertilizing the pitcher in the process.
The organism seems to thrive on this strange diet: A 2009 study by Australian botanist Charles Clarke found that N. Lowii specimens get 57 to 100 percent of their foliar nitrogen from tree-shrew feces, and that the plant's orifice geometry is perfectly matched for shrew's pooping ease. Plant lovers who are having trouble raising this curious species might try changing its diet.
LOW FASHION, IN CANADA
If you missed the ninth annual toilet-paper fashion show in Toronto last weekend, it's been posted on YouTube for all to chuckle at. The White Cashmere Collection, a charity event staged by tissue giant Kruger Products, featured more than a dozen Canadian designers crafting evening wear and shoes out of the stuff you normally use to wipe a tush. The theme this year: “old time Hollywood glamour.”
Top image from Shutterstock.