Monday, January 11, 2010

toilet trips and tips

I was born with a bladder the size of a premature baby’s fist. Or at least it feels that way. Every 5 minutes or so, particularly (and unfortunately) when I’m out of the house, I feel like I have to use the restroom. The only time I remember not having regular urinary urges was when I was severely dehydrated because of adult-onset measles, which caused all my bodily fluids to spontaneously spew out of almost every orifice except my … OK, maybe I should stop.

My point is, like many who can’t hold their pee, I’ve seen many toilets. And after seeing a good number of them, I’ve compiled some unsolicited tips for toilet designers and decision-makers everywhere. Because I am the voice of authority. And I really like pretty restrooms.

[To all male readers: this might not apply to you. From what I’ve gathered, all that men need is an empty water bottle and reasonably good aim.]


1. When choosing creative signage for the male and female restrooms, try not to get too carried away. The key is to lead people to the right door, not win the grand prize for abstract art. I have wasted precious half-minutes of my life standing in front of a toilet door, trying to decipher an icon that could possibly stand for a female, but could very well be a faceless transvestite in a curious outfit. There was one time I forgot my glasses so I had to move close enough to the toilet sign to see if it was indeed the ladies room. I was the epitome of grace, with my nose just an inch away from the toilet door, having to squint at the extremely vague sign and, at the same time, balancing my tipsy self while crossing my legs in an effort to postpone the inevitable.

2. Make sure that (a) there is some space between the edge of the toilet seat and the edge of the cubicle door at full swivel, and (b) the space on either side of the seat is considerably bigger than the average female thigh. Having no such space is a nightmare to us giant-purse-loving, giant-thigh-bearing females, who, when faced with such a situation, have to contort our bodies until we almost step on the toilet seat just to maneuver out of the tiny space. If you’ve just come from serious shopping and are holding large and unwieldy paper bags, forget about it. Unless you are willing to suffer paper cuts and possible asphyxiation, that is. Of course you could just stay in there and starve until you lose a few pounds and shed thigh fat.

3. Try not to purchase toilets that, back when they were just raw materials, wanted to become fountains when they grew up. One particular mall is notorious for these wild toilets. After doing my thing, I stood up and flushed the toilet, like the exemplary citizen that I was. After its initial downward spiral, the toilet water exploded like a dirty geyser and sprinkled my pants, purse and parts of my exposed skin. [Insert requisite “eeewww” here.]

4. I love that sink and faucet designs aren’t what they used to be. I like the non-sinks, where the water just flows from the faucet onto a tilted slab. I enjoy the faucets that come from a low ceiling. However, if you’re going to choose an unconventional faucet, put visible instructions nearby on how to work the fixtures. In one particular Hong Kong bar restroom, I didn’t know if I wanted to feel scared or pleased. The individual cubicle doors were like thick, massive stone walls that you had to push mightily to reach urinary nirvana inside your private mausoleum. Stranger though was the “sink”, which looked more like a massive church altar situated island-style in the middle of the restroom. Sure, there were faucets that jutted out from the sides of the “sink”, but I, along with the few women who were present, just stood there, not knowing where the valves were. We bowed our heads and prayed for hygiene instead. Given the aura of that restroom, it was only apt.

When it comes to restrooms, I recommend prioritizing simple qualities, such as cleanliness, reasonable leg room per cubicle, lots of toilet paper, functional sinks, working ventilation and good plumbing. Not all toilets can be as amazing as the Narita airport toilets (specified as such because I will not pretend to have vacationed in Japan), where you can choose to warm your toilet seat, select the water pressure of the bidet, play music to cover up unpleasant man-made sounds, and update your Facebook status.

So there. Professional tips from a professional … uhm … girl-a-loo. Get it? [Insert requisite “booooo” here.]


*this entry looks a bit different from my previous entries (ie, it's properly capitalized!) because it also appears here, where i've started to guest-blog. long live design folder!