John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
In other toilet news, Juggalo porta-potties are disgusting, a Japanese toilet is hackable, and a man allegedly bombs a gas-station commode with a skunk.
It's Toilet Tuesday, your occasional roundup of world's most crucial bathroom news:
A VICTORY FOR TRANS RIGHTS
In a national first, a state government has mandated that all its school districts open their bathroom doors to transgender students. On Monday, California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing K-to-12th-grade kids to use the restrooms of whatever sex corresponds with their gender identity, birth girl-and-boy-parts notwithstanding. (They also have the new freedom to claim their preferred locker rooms and sports teams, but those things are outside the realm of Toilet Tuesday.)
The law takes to a broader level policies previously adopted by a few progressive cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Media accounts of the loosening of loo access adhere to the familiar diametric of Yay for human rights! versus Society is doomed. Here's an example from the Associated Press:
Supporters said it will help reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students. It comes as the families of transgender students have been waging local battles with school districts across the country over what restrooms and locker rooms their children can use, disagreements that have sometimes landed in court....
“The answer is not to force something this radical on every single grade in California,” said Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute. “What about the right to privacy of a junior high school girl wanting to go to the bathroom and having some privacy or after PE showering and having to worry about being in the locker room with a boy?”
A snappy response to that last worry comes from the spokesman for San Francisco's Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who authored the bill: Transgender students, typically speaking, are “not interested in going into bathrooms and flaunting their physiology.”
BEHOLD, THE FEARED BATHROOMS OF JUGGALOS
Many venues vie for the title of Worst Bathroom Facilities in America, but Daniel Hill may have actually found that mythical repository of filth and human depravity. A couple days ago, the intrepid Riverfront Times reporter found himself questioning his "decisions in life" after venturing inside several porta-potties at this month's Gathering of the Juggalos, in Cave-in-Rock, Illinois. This annual bash, staged by the Insane Clown Posse and their legion of greasepainted, nude, Faygo-spraying, dying fans is notorious enough that it's inspired a documentary; from Hill's account, a feature-length sequel could be made about the bathrooms alone. He writes:
Having intractable, carny food-based diarrhea in a 200-degree box of poop is bad enough, but add to it the destructive whims of thousands of Juggalos (not to mention their similarly poor cuisine choices) and you wind up trapped in a hell-ish world. The sweat that is pouring off of your body, the liquid covering every surface within the john, the two inches of either dook or mud that is caked on the floor (let's be real: It is probably a mixture of both, as is every puddle of brown on the grounds at this point in time) all combine to make you feel like one great big piece of shit just sort of oozing into the abyss below.
Among the journalist's nasty discoveries is that Juggalos somehow manage to cover a potty's interior with wet, fetid toilet tissue, like they were trying to TP a house for Halloween; they somehow miss the toilet altogether when going No. 2, creating a reservoir of human waste that laps at the potty's walls; and despite all this unpleasantness, they still take the time to tag the walls with markers (here's lookin' at ya, "Freddy Grimes"). Take a trip into the stinky abyss with this gruesome photo investigation of where Juggalos relieve themselves, but be warned you'll be dry-retching until next Tuesday's lunch.
THAT'S WHY MY TOILET IS CONTROLLED BY AN iPHONE
A Japanese toilet made the news recently for being so high-tech – it has a built-in deodorizer and can blast music and maintain detailed logs of bowel movements – that it is vulnerable to hacking. The security hole in the $4,000 Satis rests in the Android app that allows owners to remotely control it. (Why? Because this is Japan.) Security firm Trustwave claims that a hacker can exploit the toilet's Bluetooth to cause all sorts of mayhem:
As such, any person using the "My Satis" application can control any Satis toilet, provided that the toilet is in pairing mode. If the toilet is not in pairing mode, it is still possible to pair with the toilet by observing Bluetooth traffic to learn the toilet's hardware address and pair with the toilet. An attacker can cause the toilet to repeatedly flush, raising the water usage and therefore utility cost to its owner.
Attackers could cause the unit to unexpectedly open/close the lid, activate bidet or air-dry functions, causing discomfort or distress to user.
For anyone currently being whacked on the butt by a flapping rogue toilet seat, apologies, but Trustwave says that "[n]o patch currently exists for this issue."
"HEAD" LINE OF THE MOMENT
"Dude with mullet arrested for stinking up public restroom"
The original story that Death and Taxes Mag is reinterpreting has a more lame but slightly clearer headline: "Man accused of putting skunk in gas station bathroom." According to WYMT-TV, a 35-year-old man in Middlesboro, Kentucky, had an argument with an employee at a gas station. So a few days later, he allegedly entered the establishment with garbage bag and headed to the bathroom. A station attendant recalls him then coming out and saying, "I'm sorry man," at which point the attendee noticed there was a baby skunk next to the toilet.
The stench cloud that the creature released onto those trying to corral it resulted in about $6,000 in lost business, with customers stopping at the entranceway and immediately fleeing. But the suspected skunk-bomber denies he had anything to do with that. "That wasn't how I get even," he told the TV station from a jail. "I'm not gonna grab no skunk, you know what I'm saying. I ain't gonna grab no skunk."
Top image: Svadilfari / Flickr