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 By Eric Shackle

We do it everyday, yet we do not talk about it. It is "taboo" on one hand and impolite to talk about it. So says the website of the World Toilet Organization, just formed in Singapore. The Inaugural World Toilet Summit 2001, from November 19 to 21, attracted toilet professionals, government officials, non-government bodies, companies and individuals from around the world.

"When we go to 'toilets away from home' we sometimes put up with the many discomforts like hygiene problems, inadequate sanitation, design flaws and many other problems associated with public toilets," says the WTO.

"Public toilets serve the male and female but it goes beyond that. What about the visually, physically and mentally handicapped, the child, the elderly, or people with babies, as well as certain religious and cultural toilet requirements? The female visits the toilet 3 times longer than the male; logically they need more toilet cubicles because of the absence of urinals."

Toilets are called bathrooms in America, lavatories in Britain, and dunnies in Australia. The WTO has gathered a fund of toilet humour, having just awarded prizes for two contests.  They called the  first competition "Toilet of a Thousand Names" and suggested as examples : Toilet, Restroom, Gents, Ladies, Powder Room, Washroom, WC, John, Bathroom, ThunderBox, etc. Twenty lucky winners stood to win a pair of designer's "restroom earrings".

A second contest, "Loo's Toons," invited web surfers to  "unleash your creativity and send us meaningful, hilarious, extravagant cartoons on loo". Here, each of 20 winners stood to win a tasteful WTO pewter collar pin.

Shortly after leaving the WTO's highly informative website, we chanced upon a fascinating news item on the website of the Gloucestershire Echo, a newspaper published in the historic English town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Headlined 'Let's try out open air loos' - council , the story began: "Open-air toilets could be introduced in Cheltenham in a bid to stop men urinating in the street after late night drinking sessions. Known as Kros units, the mobile urinals resemble French-style pissoirs. Made from heavy-duty plastic, they can be used by four men at a time. Users of the toilets would be screened from the passing public by modesty curtains.

"The proposals come from the night time economy working party, set up to look at ways to improve the town centre at night. Members of the working group which includes council, police, community and business representatives hope the walk-in toilets will help police tackle the problem of people urinating in the streets and shop doorways."

Grahame Lewis, head of development services at Cheltenham Borough Council said: "These mobile toilets would be put out onto the streets late at night and taken away in the early morning to be emptied. They are not going to be seen in the day time or interfere with shoppers."

This problem, of course, isn't confined to Cheltenham, or even to England. Mobile urinals have been on trial in Westminster, London, since July. Westminster councillor Judith Warner said: "They provide a practical solution to the anti-social behaviour of urinating against walls and doorways at the weekends."

The Echo website's bottom line asked: "Something to say about this story? Post a message on the local news bulletin board."

Jenny P promptly replied by striking this blow for equal opportunity:
"Glad to hear the council are finally doing something about the increasing amount of outdoor urination by pub goers. One thing though - what are they doing for women? I've noticed a big rise in girls peeing in shop doorways etc. With no discernable public lav presence in the town, why discriminate against us girls by ignoring us?"

Do You Know?

  1. People visit the toilet on average 3500 times a year -- about 10 times a day.
  2. Poor toilets are a world-wide problem. More than half the world population have no proper sanitation.
  3. Suppression of urination due to dirty toilets can lead to kidney and bladder diseases.
  4. Most toilets are designed incorrectly.
  5. Females take three times as long as males yet both toilet sizes are often the same.
  6. Toilet remains a taboo as people are shy to discuss the subject.
  7. There are toilet associations world-wide promoting toilet education and culture.

-- Edited version of information from the WTO website.

Copyright 2001   Eric Shackle   Story first posted December 2001

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