By Eleanor Tylbor
Chances are this went by unnoticed by most people but there are people who feel the necessity to organize a World Toilet Day. Toilets as a rule are taken for granted as a means to (or for) an end and few of us experience a flush of excitement answering nature’s call. However in some circles it’s an important issue worthy of a summit and further exploration.
For the uninformed World Toilet Day takes place every year on November 19. The aim of establishing this special day is to encourage people to take action and increase the awareness of the rights of toilet users to a better environment. Furthermore according to information gleaned on this fascinating subject on the Internet the powers-that-be behind (or in front depending on the user) hope to get all toilet users involved and practice toilet etiquette. Presumably this would include washing hands with soap for as long as it takes to sing one chorus of "Mary had a little lamb..." and then waiting politely with dripping wet hands until a hand dryer is free.
Two years ago a World Toilet Expo and Forum sponsored by the World Toilet Organization was held in Beijing, China, and attended by delegates from around the world to discuss…toilet-related issues. A non-profit group comprised of seventeen members from all over the globe, The World Toilet Organization’s objectives include among others:
- establish a world body to coordinate and promote sanitation issues
- to continuously generate awareness for the importance of good toilet environment-
- provide and promote a community of all toilet associations, related organizations and individuals to facilitate an exchange of ideas, health and cultural matters
The group puts out a fact sheet and there is some interesting data worth noting like “the female visits the toilet three times longer than the male.” This begs the question as to how this statistic was obtained. Were there ‘WTO’ volunteers stationed outside public bathrooms with hand-held counting devices, monitoring women and men entering and leaving the bathrooms?
There has also been some toilet-related research carried out. For example, again something difficult to prove is an average person visits the toilet – wait for it – 2500 times a year. The conclusion was although no formula is provided to back up this statistic that people spend approximately three years of our lives in the toilet. One wonders whether refreshing makeup, combing hair or staring into a mirror and/or checking teeth, factored into the final equation.
As a person who has used public toilets while travelling, there are some interesting differences worth noting. I’m the type of traveller that judges the civility of a country by its bathrooms. Some of the higher end hotels feature automated devices that dispense toilet paper to cover the seat surface. Once the user stands up the previous cover disappears…somewhere, and a new one rolls out ready for use. Still other toilets feature a sensor device that flushes automatically without ever having to push or pull a handle. Then those are bathrooms where an attendant waits to hand post-toilet users a real cotton towel. I've lined up to use facilities in high end concert halls where talking is hushed and flushing is relegated to an unobtrusive whoosh. In Cannes the line up to use a cubicle on the beach required a 10 minute wait only to discover that I didn't have change to pay the attendant.
For those interested in taking toilets to a higher level the World Toilet College (WTC) has been established to respond to the needs of creating an independent world body to ensure that the standards of toilet design, cleanliness, maintenance, quality of work and sanitation technologies are met. Among the courses offered are restroom design, restroom special training and an ecological sanitation course.Can’t speak for others but I’ve already put aside November 19 in order to mark next year’s World Toilet Day. I’m already experiencing the urge to go.