Thursday, March 12, 2009

Automatic Flush

Most Americans recognize that Frankenstein’s monster was an experiment gone wrong. After reading Shelley’s book and seeing countless film versions, they would never support bringing the dead back to life. Why then, do Americans support the automatic toilet?

Worse than reanimating the dead, the inventors of the automatic toilet attempted to animate the inanimate. Toilet bowls never knew how to flush themselves. And yet, no matter how absurdly robot-like automatic toilets seem, they have become the fashionable way to flush.

They are found in movie theaters, office buildings, athletic facilities, malls, restaurants, and most horrifying, highway rest stops. There is nothing worse than encountering an automatic toilet after hours of travel. It makes a bladder full of urine test itself to see how many more miles it can stay clamped beneath a seat belt until a normal, manual flush toilet could be found. So what makes automatic toilets so frightening to the bladder of the innocent movie-goer, worker, runner, shopper, diner, or traveler? I can best explain by describing the typical automatic toilet experience of an adult female. Just for fun, let’s say she’s 23 years-old…and a law student…and a talented writer. I’ll call her Dana.

Dana walks into a public restroom holding her breath, hoping that her surroundings will be clean. If the sinks are not too clogged with short green hairs and if the tiles have, on average, less than three mushroom caps growing in between them, Dana will begin to breathe in a normal pattern.

She approaches the nearest stall and undoubtedly finds that its automatic toilet has not been flushed. She shouldn’t even bother looking into the first stall anymore. Disgusted, she continues on her way down the aisle of stalls, peering into unflushed toilet after unflushed toilet.

Eventually, if Dana is lucky, she finds a stall whose toilet has been flushed and whose toilet seat is not drenched in unidentifiable liquid. She wipes the seat off anyway and puts down a protective paper cover. She urinates as fast as her bladder can squeeze— yes, Dana gave me all the details— and then one of two things happens.

The first scenario is that the toilet flushes before she is done with it. The little red laser sensor above the toilet seat detects that she is in the middle of some important wiping action, and so it flashes out of spite. Dana is still half-on the toilet seat, crumpled toilet paper in hand, when the flushing begins. The flush of an automatic toilet resembles a tidal wave emerging from the bowl. A “toilet wave,” I’ll call it, forces Dana on her feet and splashes dirty water on the back of her thighs. Now she stands with a wet backside. She has no choice but to wipe her legs with more toilet paper and re-dirty the already flushed bowl.

The second scenario is that Dana does her business, wipes, and then nothing happens. She violently waves her hand in front of the laser sensor, but it is out-of-order or perhaps on a cigarette break. A bowl full of yellow water stares her in the face.

In either scenario, poor Dana is stuck trying to figure out how to manually flush the automatic toilet. I’m sure you see the irony.

This is the most trying part of the automatic toilet experience. The manual flush device can be a knob, button, or lever. It can be behind the seat, on the side, resting on the floor, or hanging next to the toilet paper dispenser. It’s black, white, purple, blue, or invisible. After a fruitless 15-second search for this pit-stop mirage, most people leave their problem for the next person. Dana would never do such a thing.

Because she would never do such a thing, Dana reserves approximately twelve minutes for every encounter with an automatic flush bathroom: one minute to scope out the sink hairs/tile mushrooms, two minutes to find a stall, thirty seconds to wipe the seat off, one minute to put the paper cover on, thirty seconds to actually urinate, five minutes to (sometimes) wipe off her pee-stained thighs and (always) look for the manual flush button, and two minutes to wash and dry hands. Dana is in good shape, but such an exercise would tire anyone.

As evidenced by Dana’s usual experience, I argue this is not how public urination should occur in the U.S., especially in a space known as the RESTroom. I believe a more accurate term for the automatic bathroom is the “Flush Prison.” It directly punishes America’s obsession with soda, coffee, and other diuretics. Moreover, it’s the bacteria-encrusted seat of Constitutional and human rights violations: It is cruel and unusual punishment to be sprayed with one’s own urine due to an overactive flush sensor. One’s right to privacy is breached every time a manual flush button goes missing and a stall neighbor is called over to help find it. Dagnabbit, my freedom of religion is compromised if I am compelled to pray for an under-12-minute piss! I mean, Dana’s freedom of religion is compromised. Dana’s.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

America may do toilet paper better but we're in the dark ages as far as toilet hygiene is concerned. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off" Now if you want to get the best technology for taking care of business on the john you need the portable bidet bathroom sprayer from . It almost eliminates the need for toilet paper, offers vastly superior cleaning, convenience and in addition has many health benefits. Comes in a kit that can be installed without a plumber.