Toilet with Elevated Cistern and Chain in the Stonehenge Visitors Center.
Toilets. Not something I ever thought I’d write about. But why not? After all, I recently wrote about a sculpture called “Piss.”
Just the other day I was questioned about my husband and I responded, “He’s in the toilet.” Then I realized how that would sound if I’d said it in the States. This got me to thinking about the subject.
Genuine Crapper Toilet: “Crapper’s Valveless Waste Preventer No. 814.”
In the UK, one asks for the toilet (or loo, WC, Ladies, etc.), not the restroom. Even after ten months, I still feel uncomfortable asking for the toilet. It just sounds so explicit. But in the land of the bio-break, I’m not sure if Brits are just more comfortable than Americans (or at least me) with the whole business.
So, given my semi-prudish, American perspective, imagine my surprise when my niece told me about the “Let Him Sit!” anti-pee campaign in Ghent, Belgium. My niece explained that it costs to pee in Ghent. Even if you eat at McDonald’s, you still have to pay to pee. We did find one no-cost public toilet, but it was unisex, which meant that a lady could walk in on (or out of a stall on) a man using the urinal. What!?!
It seems that public peeing has become such a problem that the city instituted a €60 fine for urinating in public. To combat the urge to urinate on a wall or in an alley during festivals, the city places freestanding public urinals so men can pee right there, in public, in front of anyone who happens to be walking by. Now, the unisex toilet wasn’t sounding quite as shocking. No relief for the ladies, though. So the “Let Her Sit!” campaign was born. You can see an example of a public urinal as well as a “Let Her Sit! campaign poster on Gentblogt.be.
Example of a Public Pay Toilet in Amsterdam (Nov. 2011).
Amsterdam appears to have public toilet issues as well. We saw quite a few of the phone-booth type toilets in Amsterdam, as shown above, but some entrepreneurial individuals, thinking it too difficult to find a clean restroom, decided to capitalize on toilet woes by opening 2theloo.
2theloo is more than just a place to take a bio-break. The entrance area has a gift shop selling toiletry-related products and a coffee bar. A visit to the toilet is € 0.50, but each visit comes with a € 0.50 coupon, which can be redeemed in the shop. I hope the shop is a huge success, because who doesn’t like a clean restroom when you need one? This shop in Amsterdam opened in February 2011. Store fronts in other cities have opened since.
I’ve learned much about toilets, but no fact more ridiculous than how to properly flush a toilet. This wouldn’t have been so ridiculous if I hadn’t already been living here for eight months. Do you see how that toilet in the photo above has two buttons on the back wall? Do you know what the buttons do? If so, you know more than I did until recently. In all honesty, I was too embarrassed to ask anyone what the two buttons meant. In the US, as far as I know, there’s only one way to flush a toilet. Here, toilet flushing mechanisms come in a variety of shapes and configurations, but so often it’s TWO buttons. The first time I pushed the larger button. Flush. The next time I pushed the smaller button. Flush. One time I tried to push the two buttons simultaneously. Flush. What gives? Then I finally got the courage to ask a friend if she knew why toilets had two buttons. I could have slapped myself. If you knew or figured it out before I did, feel free to laugh and laugh heartily. If not, don’t feel bad. I was right there with you until I learned that the small button is for when you don’t need as much water.
Because this post has covered a variety of toilet-related topics, let me leave you with a sign I saw on a public pay toilet in Tewkesbury, which I’d never seen before or since.
Not having used the facility, I can only guess what the sign means.
If you’d like to read a humorous and insightful post on American restrooms/toilets and related euphemisms, check out The Gap on Resident Alien — Being Dutch in America.