John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
German researchers say the "Big Lavatory Concept" is necessary to accommodate the world's larger body weights.
Squeeze on into this edition of Toilet Tuesday, if you're able:
A VERY SPECIAL TOILET FOR OVERWEIGHT AND DISABLED FLYERS
Airline toilets are hard enough to use when you're skinny. Imagine what it must feel like when you weigh 350 pounds and are trying to squeeze into one, throwing hard elbows at the walls and mirror like you're in an MMA deathmatch. If you are overweight and hate these closets of misery, though, German researchers have got your back (butt?) with a redesigned commode of the skies, called the "Big Lavatory Concept."
A team from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences developed the jumbo-sized head to accommodate the world's increasing body masses. There is much more leg room thanks to a toilet that's positioned at a diagonal, a feature that should please those who use wheelchairs, too. The seat is also rejiggered to make it easier for disabled people to hop on and off. This remodeled loo stands a chance this week of winning a 2013 Crystal Cabin Award, a coveted prize among aviation engineers who design innovations for jet-cabin interiors.
Though it was made by Europeans, the Big Lavatory could get an especially big welcome in North America where more than 70 percent of the population is overweight. (Many countries are rushing to catch up with America's poundage, though, like China and India.) The airlines will be able to recoup some of their losses in cabin real estate with a new feature in the toilet that actually encourages a sedentary lifestyle: The lavatories come with little video screens that play advertisements while the bathroom users conduct their business.
EWW GOD ACK WHY?
Calling all fans of locked-room mysteries: There's something foul going on in San Francisco, and we need your help to finger the culprit!
The awful detective story began this weekend when Haighteration, a blog covering the Lower Haight neighborhood, posted a reader's photo (warning: it's shown below) of a rooftop covered in a minefield of poop. OK, you might be thinking, there's a guy (it's always a guy) living there whose low-rent toilet is busted. Necessity is the mother of invention, so.... But not so fast! It turns out there is no door leading out to this roof, as the reader pointed out:
"A ton of feces has been slowly gathering on the roof of the building. It’s big so it has to be from either a human or a large dog. We can’t figure out where the hell it is coming from. 237 Steiner has no roof access and the building next to [ours] would have to have a quarterback’s arm to reach that far. Plus most of it isn’t in bags."
Interestingly enough, 237 Steiner was also the setting for the beloved underground docu-drama "Shut Up Little Man!" However, the drunken combatants featured in those recordings reportedly died of their vices a long time ago, so they're not the culprits.
Now Lower Haight residents are scrambling to explain what the blog's author has dubbed the "brownest roof in town." A popular theory is raccoons, which works if you ignore the feces in plastic bags. "When I lived in Florida we had a problem with them pooping in the pool and it looked exactly like human poop," notes one commenter. "They also love to climb on the roof."
THE NEXT KING OF THRONES, IN AMERICA
It's that time of year again, when the nation's bathroom heroes stand up to be counted. The organizers of America Best Restroom Contest are seeking nominations for 2013's Platonic ideal of a toilet – a truly regal loo that's both “elegant, eclectic or downright quirky” and “immaculate, inviting and, most of all, memorable,” according to the company behind the challenge, the Cincinnati-based Cintas Corporation.
Cintas, a maker of company uniforms and restrooms supplies, holds this tournament every year to honor those individuals who put as much love into their restrooms as they do into, say, raising their kids. The company is accepting nominations way ahead of the winners' announcement in August, suggesting that this year could be particularly fierce in terms of competition, though Cintas will kick out any business owner who explodes another's toilets with M-80s. (Well, presumably.)
If you have a bathroom you particularly love to spend time in, drop a nomination here. Past winners have included the Portland loo, the “plush” ladies room at a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, the “sufficient stalls and sinks” at the Chicago Field Museum and a Texas convenience store called Buc-ee's that enjoys a hearty fan following on Yelp. Typical words of praise: "I walk 20 miles, uphill both ways, just to poop here."