John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Evolution gave us hands, but people are so afraid of germs in the bathroom they prefer to use feet, hips, and paper towels to touch things.
Please place a paper napkin over your mouse before navigating this edition of Toilet Tuesday:
WE ARE ALL MONKEYS IN THE BATHROOM
When it comes to touching things in public restrooms, Americans are much like chimps – using feet and other body parts to manipulate surfaces, instead of relying on our evolution-honed hands. At least so says the Bradley Corporation, a (bias alert?) maker of bathroom furnishings headquartered near Milwaukee.
The country is so frightened of germs that 64 percent of people who use public bathrooms press the toilet flusher with their feet, according to the company's survey of roughly a thousand Americans. That means if you use your hands to do so, you're in effect stroking the nasty sole of a stranger's shoe. A full 60 percent use paper towels as gloves when opening bathroom doors, whereas 37 percent do that for faucet handles. Nearly half of the people surveyed reported opening and shutting doors with their hips.
Bradley's crack team of toilet experts conducted this research as part of a larger effort to understand how the nation feels about the mass-use commode. The results indicate that "more people than ever (63 percent) say they've had a particularly unpleasant experience in a public restroom due to the condition of the facilities," the company explains:
The top restroom complaints were: a really bad smell (82 percent); toilets that were clogged or not flushed (79 percent); and an overall appearance that's dirty, unkempt or old (73 percent)....
An unpleasant restroom can also cause lost sales since 64 percent of Americans say they'll either think twice about patronizing the business or will never frequent it again.
BEHOLD, THE 'PEE TRAJECTORY CORRECTOR'
China is really not messing around with its campaign to improve public-bathroom hygiene. First Beijing goes super-anal retentive by limiting the number of flies allowed to buzz around urinals, and now Shenzhen has declared war on non-civilized toilet behaviors such as spitting, littering, and peeing on the floor.
That's great for the Clint Eastwoods out there who always hit their targets. But for those who may have a shaky hand or quivering thighs, it could mean a $16 ticket if only a few drops spill outside the porcelain zone. Must Chinese people live in fear of missing the mark (assuming the authorities are really enforcing this measure)? Can't somebody devise a wacky, impractical invention that guarantees their streams will find the way home 100 percent of the time?
Enter the "Pee Trajectory Corrector," a long, plastic funnel that routes urine straight into the bowl. Entrepreneurs are now shilling these beer bong-looking doohickeys outside of public restrooms in Shenzhen, reports Rocket News 24, which has answers to all your burning questions:
■ Is it smartphone friendly?
Studies show that a majority of pee misfires occur when the peeing party is preoccupied with their smartphones. The makers of Pee Trajectory Corrector took that into consideration and included a neck strap which allows the user to tweet and tinkle at the same time!
■ Is it available in my choice of colors?
You bet it is! The Pee Trajectory Corrector is available in a wide array of loud colors such as hot pink and electric green. This way when you have to take care of business everyone will know you’re doing it right. And if the Shenzhen municipal pee inspector comes-a-checking he won’t have to look hard to know you’re following the law.
Presumably these devices are disposable, and you're not meant to carry them around like pee-covered vuvuzelas for the rest of the day. Here's the promo video:
CAN YOU GUESS WHERE THESE TOILETS ARE FROM?
A true world-class traveler can be judged on the merits of his or her toilet knowledge. It takes years of globe-trotting to be able to recognize the sleek, porpoiselike curves of a Tokyo toilet, for instance, or the regional differences among the hole-in-the-ground loos in operation throughout much of the world.
Thanks to geek-humor site Us Vs. Th3m, it's now possible to put your toilet-detection skills to the test with the attractively named "Crapper Mapper." The 10-part quiz presents unlabeled images of bathrooms throughout the world; it's up to you to guess what country they hail from (or if you're really good, what city and even what bar). Making a successful geographic identification means not just studying the fixture, but the room as a whole. How much graffiti adorns the walls? Does the hygienic condition imply a First World nation? Do you seem to be floating in some kind of spacecraft?
There are some good surprises in wait, so give it a whirl. However, be warned that choosing incorrectly results in a noise that will make your coworkers stare at you unpleasantly.
Top image: Shane Gorski / Flickr