Over There (in the UK)

May 23, 2003 at 12 PM

Some Privacy Please

Is the bathroom the last outpost of privacy in a harried, hurried world?

The Toronto Star tells you more than you ever asked to know about los baños.

One of my favourite euphemisms in the English language is “the john.” My grandmother always referred to it that way when I was a kid, and it seems so fitting. Everyone is just another John (or Jane) when they’re on the crapper. It’s one of the few activities in life that reduces us to simple biology as there really is no fancy, polite way to take a shit. (Although I can think of a few exceptionally impolite ways.)

So are you a bathroom privacy lover? I must admit, I relish the liberating feeling of leaving the bathroom door open when no one else is home. Otherwise, I prefer to keep a lid on things. I have the requisite pile of trivial reading material for those times when I want to take a break from the world, and whenever I’m at someone else’s home and the bathroom has no lock, I find myself stricken with subtle paranoia at the embarrassing possibilities.

Other people I know (naming no names) think nothing of continuing their conversations — in person, or on the phone — while they relieve themselves. “Blah blah and my dog blah, FLUSH, blah.” I object. Although one day, when I get a laptop, you will have to wonder if any of my entries here will be composed aux toilettes.

Finally, for the germaphobes, a few germs gems from the article:

Maybe it’s more about what we don’t do. According to a 1995 study by microbiology professor Dr. Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona, close to half of all Americans do not wash their hands when they use the bathroom. As many as 25 per cent leave the bathroom with fecal coliform — otherwise known as E. coli — on their hands.

A 2001 study of hand-washing by Dr. Michael John, head of infection control at St. Joseph’s Health Care in London, Ont., found that washing hands for 15 or 30 seconds considerably reduces microbe transfer. But most of us wash our hands for 10 seconds or less. And to add to the microbe count, we don’t always dry our hands properly, preferring instead a quick wipe across our clothes or a fast shake to get the water off.

And hand dryers, which may seem sanitary, actually increase the amount of bacteria in the room. When you rub your hands together under the hot air jet, bacteria from the dryers and from your hands blow throughout the restroom.

I knew there was a better reason to detest those infernal hand dryers.


When I got my first laptop with wireless networking a few years ago, I must admit that it was convenient to bring it into the “can” with me to surf, chat, write emails, etc. Some directly compare this to talking on the phone while doing your “business”. I digress. The major problem with the phone, is that the person at the other end can hear what you’re doing. There are some sounds that simply belong behind a closed door. On a computer, the audio, and the absolute real-time just isn’t there. If someone sends me an instant message, and at the same time something is about to happen [cough], I am not obliged to reply right away, like you would on a telephone. I don’t have to say, “Oh, just hold on a few secs.” That said, I find that rarely do I bring my computer in there anymore. I don’t know why exactly, I guess I’d rather just contemplate or something…

As for public bathrooms, I have become very skilled at avoiding direct contact with anything. I witness almost every time men who do not feel it necessary to wash their hands after you know what, so I don’t like to take any chances. My dad taught my brother and I at a very early age to always lay down toilet paper onto the seat. I prefer auto-flush toilets, but if it isn’t there, I simply use my shoe to flush. With sinks, auto is also better; otherwise, I turn it on with my hands, wash them thoroughly, and turn them off while holding a paper towel. I also open the door with a paper towel, and on my way out, arc the then balled-up towel into the garbage, much like a basketball player probably would.

Mind you you, I am not nearly as skilled as this woman

Patrick Gibson | May. 23, 2003 — 2 PM

Enh. A little dirt never hurt anyone. Unless you’re really, really digging for gold, how much e-coliform can you possibly have on your hands? Sometimes I wash my hands, sometimes I don’t. I’m sure we’d all be shocked at how unsanitary our own bathrooms are compared to public washrooms that get cleaned daily.

“But it’s MY bum! That’s different!”

Yeah right. :)

— | May. 23, 2003 — 3 PM

Ah, the john, the can, the loo, the facilities, the little general’s room… yes, a place of rare tranquility, safety and comfort. Anyhoo, one of the things I disliked about living in Asia was the lack of such loo comfort — most of the bathrooms were the Asian variety, viz: toilet-shaped hole in floor with no toilet, necessitating baseball-catcher like positioning. Not good for casually perusing this week’s New Yorker. Her in Mtl I enjoy long poops, interrupted only by my girlfriend’s ablutions and the insistence of my pug, who must be around at all times. That’s probably WAY too much information; but you brought it, er, up.

M-J | May. 27, 2003 — 2 PM

Whats with the toilet blogs and poo emails all the time, dude? Enough! yeesh!

brett | May. 29, 2003 — 10 AM

Whatever you do, do NOT click here — I repeat, do NOT click.

— Patrick | May. 29, 2003 — 1 PM

The bathroom, when a child, was that one place that you were allowed to lock the door - avoiding the seeing, (and hearing when you were in the shower) of other people. It’s still a place where life slows to the pace of one’s body. It’s a shame to rush through the rituals, and bypass the introspective opportunities that many, I expect, would rather avoid. And honestly - the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings that I experience in the bathroom always add to my fascination of what I can achieve in and of myself. I’m sick - but I like myself this way.

Liam Angus | Jun. 28, 2003 — 8 PM

Previously: Doesn’t It Make You Hungry?

Subsequently: The Songs Have Changed

May 2003
the Archives

In Earshot

I only really read it for Canucks coverage, but even still it’s nice that The Vancouver Sun finally redesigned its hideously awful website to look like it was designed this century.

On pizza box art

Web 2.Origami

Welcome to Obama, Japan

The Toronto Star shows where and how the seats changed in the 2008 election

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In Frame

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