Don't Forget To Flush

TO WIT

May 08, 1994|By DAVE BARRY

When we try to name the one thing that makes America great, we are forced to conclude that the answer is "quality of life," defined as "working toilets." We are blessed with the finest toilet system in the world. When we go to a place such as a shopping mall or restaurant, we know that we will find public restrooms meeting all the standards of the Federal Interstate Commode Quality Act, including:

* Modern soap and paper-towel dispensers designed to conserve our planet's precious resources by always being out of soap and paper towels.

* Bad words that have been written on the walls by irresponsible, reprehensible, antisocial, degenerate perverts who can be pretty funny.

* A sign that says "Employees must wash hands before leaving restroom and also for God's sake please stop spitting into the entrees."

* A person who has been in a stall for at least two days making noises like walruses mating.

Also, sometimes, if prankish youngsters have not stolen it or attempted to flush a rental security guard down it, there will be a toilet that actually works. This is not the case elsewhere in the world. Ask anybody who travels a lot. In foreign countries, you constantly find yourself in scary situations involving plumbing that was built thousands of years ago by the Etruscans, who chose to become extinct rather than try to use it. These facilities are often guarded by very short, very wide, very hostile women who watch you like a hawk and expect you to tip them for tending the mold colonies and making sure the toilet paper is rigid enough to slice luncheon meat.

Perhaps you believe I am overstating the scariness of foreign toilets. Well, perhaps you should dig out your December 1993 issue of the Scottish Medical Journal, a copy of which was sent to me by alert research scientist Elliot Cowan. On page 185, you will find an article entitled "The collapse of toilets in Glasgow." This article, which I am not making up, describes three cases wherein people were injured "whilst sitting on toilets which unexpectedly collapsed." All three patients had to receive hospital treatment for wounds in the buttocks region. (The buttocks region is located just west of Edinburgh.)

The article describes the collapsing-toilet incidents in clinical scientific terminology, which contrasts nicely with a close-up, full-face photograph suitable for framing, of a hairy and hefty victim's naked wounded butt, mooning out of the page at you, causing you to think, for reasons that you cannot quite explain, of Pat Buchanan.

"The cause [of the toilet collapses] remains unclear," states the Scottish Medical Journal, "except that all of the toilets were believed to be very old." (The article does not come right out and use the term "Etruscan," but we can read between the lines.)

So my advice is: If you must go to a foreign country, go to the bathroom before you leave. Although I personally would stay right here in the United States, because we could be on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough in the form of -- get

ready -- a microwave toilet.

I have here the May 26, 1993, issue of the Bloomsburg, Pa., Press-Enterprise, sent in by alert reader David Hill; right on the front page is a story, written by Ellen Condron, about a man named George Welliver, who is hoping to manufacture a toilet that would use microwaves to convert waste to ashes, thereby saving water. The article is accompanied by a stunningly artistic color photograph, taken with the camera tilted at an arty angle, showing Mr. Welliver sitting (fully dressed) on his bathroom commode, holding a microwave oven in his lap. The article quotes Welliver as saying that he originally considered a laser toilet, but decided against it. I think this was a wise decision. I'm sure I speak on behalf of guys everywhere when I say that I would not want to get any closer than about 50 feet from a laser-powered toilet, so accuracy would be a real problem.

But I think the microwave toilet is a great idea. In fact, I can foresee a day when there would be one multipurpose microwave device in your home, which would automatically, at a pre-set time, load a frozen burrito into itself, heat it up to serving temperature, then switch over to Toilet Mode, incinerate the burrito, and whisk the ashes away without any human involvement whatsoever. That is the wonderful thing about this great country: The quality of life is constantly improving in ways that we cannot begin to comprehend without massive doses of Prozac, with each generation producing something new and amazing. And then forgetting to flush.

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