John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
And in other public-bathroom news, plastic seat covers might be germy and they saved Hitler's toilet.
Flush-bang! That's the sound of an accidental discharge inside this Toilet Tuesday:
THEY SAVED HITLER'S TOILET
It's a question that's plagued historians for ages: What has become of Hitler's toilet? Well, the world need wonder no more: The personal commode of the 20th century's most hated dictator is inside Greg's Automotive Repair in Florence, New Jersey, in perfect working condition but desperately in need of a cleaning.
The odd story of the Führer's flusher was recounted recently in Tablet Magazine, which notes that this specific toilet came out of Hitler's private yacht, the Aviso Grille. After the fall of Nazi Germany, somebody transported the massive vessel to a shipyard in New Jersey where, after briefly serving as a 25-cent carnival attraction, it was taken apart for scrap. One local took the boat's teak paneling to build a porch, another the screws to put together another yacht, and the former owner of Greg's Automotive, Sam Carlani, wound up with the toilet, simply because he needed one.
Today, current owner Greg Kohfeldt gives visiting history buffs short tours of the notorious can (when he's not tied up with a repair job, of course). He seems torn about the loo's dark legacy. On the one hand, he posed smiling with it for a feature in Roadside America, which deemed it "encrusted as only a toilet can be that is never, ever, used by women." But Kohfeldt also told that publication he's not "proud" of the plumbing fixture, "but it exists," adding: "I use it to go to the bathroom."
TOILET-SEAT COVERS MIGHT BE GERM BOMBS
If you've ever sat on those high-tech airport toilets that dispense plastic seat guards, you might've been basically taking your butt and sticking it into the dirty bowl. That's according to a Pulitzer-worthy investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times that concluded that "any liquid that happens to splash on the rim of a toilet bowl can end up on the seat, where the next user of the stall can unwittingly squat down onto a mess."
And yes, reporters did verify this firsthand, inside the public facilities at O'Hare International Airport. Here's the paper's Dan Mihalopoulos explaining how that went down:
In the restrooms closest to the subway station at O’Hare, a reporter tested a reader complaint about the new seats by pouring some orange juice onto the rims of toilet bowls. After the reporter waved over the sensors that activate the hygienic seat motors, the plastic wrapping spun around the toilets—and some of the juice that had been on the rims ended up on the seats.
The same problem was not observed with the older seat covers that remain in use for now in other parts of the airport.
Click here to see the Sun-Time's 60-photo slideshow documenting the toilet investigation. (Kidding.)
HOW TO HANDLE YOUR GUN IN THE BATHROOM
Gun control is a topic much debated today in American households – and that includes the bathroom. After a man in Plymouth, Minnesota, accidentally shot himself inside the public lavatory of a grocery store in late January (and lived to tell the embarrassing tale), members of MN Guntalk went to the forums to debate the proper way to handle your heat in the john. Since this kind of accident has happened more than once – at a Walmart, a hotel and a Carl's Jr. (all since 2009!!!) – perhaps you'll be interested in learning the best technique as described by charmingly named forums user “peckerhead”:
Seriously, guys, it's not difficult.
Leave it holstered, and do not use the grip of your weapon to manipulate your pants. Back up to the toilet. Unbuckle your belt. Using your weak hand, pull the loose ends of your belt away from your body and hold snug. Using your strong hand, undo your drawers and drop them to just above your knees. Sit down. Buckle your belt at the first notch. Spread your legs a little to keep it snug while your take care of business. Problem solved.
If you feel you'd be at too much of a tactical disadvantage by buckling your belt around your legs, then the alternative is to hold your holstered weapon against your body with your strong-side elbow while you do the deed. This also works well for using the urinal.
Both of these techniques have served me well for many years now.
Since this helpful advice hit the Internet, at least one other person shot himself in the bathroom, this time at an Internet cafe in Eugene, Oregon.
Top image adapted from photo by Flickr user Bart Everson.