Do modern workers spend too much time in the bathroom, causing the businesses that employ them to suffer decreased productivity? A company in the United Kingdom is making that claim and has developed a new toilet to combat the alleged problem — which it says is getting an enthusiastic reception from American companies that may leave the commode creators feeling flushed with success.
The company, StandardToilet, asserts that workers spend 25 percent more time in the office bathroom than is strictly necessary, causing employers to experience missed employee time on the job and a hit to the bottom line as a result. It’s not entirely clear what study, if any, substantiates the 25 percent figure, and it sure seems like determining precisely how much time people really need to take care of business in the bathroom would be extremely difficult. In any case, the theory articulated by the trade group the British Toilet Association is that employees are spending more time on the seat because they aren’t just performing essential bodily functions, but also are checking social media, sending texts, visiting news websites, and otherwise multi-tasking on their personal affairs in there. Apparently it’s just another way that the smartphone has affected life as we know it.
StandardToilet’s brainchild is a toilet with a seat that has a 13 percent downward slope, causing employees to need to use their legs to firmly brace themselves against the risk of sliding off and thereby making it uncomfortable to use the toilet seat as a perch for extended bathroom breaks to stay in touch with whatever’s trending on Twitter. The tilt is supposed to cause leg strain after five minutes, incentivizing employees to wrap up their use promptly. And it’s not just about businesses, either: StandardToilet hopes to market the new toilets to roadside rest stops and public restrooms where users might be tempted to linger and clog up the efficient use of the facilities. Incidentally, the company also claims that the new design “helps in reduction of risk in swollen hemorrhoids,” which certainly is a worthy goal — you might call it goal number two — as well.
Are employers concerned about extended bathroom breaks to the point where they will install new toilets to replace old ones that are working perfectly well? The next time you’re using the facilities outside of your home, you might want to check the slope before you sit down and start liking Facebook posts.
We’re used to “smart” devices these days. Smartphones, of course. Smart TVs. Smart security systems. Even smart refrigerators.
So, is it really a surprise that people have been working on the “smart” toilet?
An Asian company has created a toilet that has built-in sensors that can detect, collect, and analyze waste samples. The test results are then transmitted to an app on your phone, which gives you health advice based on the test results. This particular smart toilet is supposed to be able to monitor heart disease and also to evaluate urine samples for symptoms of cancer and heart disease.
Health advice and real-time test results, directly from your toilet to your phone? We must be living in the 21st century!
But that toilet is not the only “smart” stuff that will soon be available to increase the IQ of your bathroom. Other powder room devices that have been exhibited or developed include a toilet and bathroom mirror that use the Alexa voice assistant (although exactly how Alexa helps in this particular area isn’t clear), a pressure sensor toilet that measures heart and blood vessel information, a toilet seat that checks blood pressure, and toilets that are linked to wi-fi, analyze out sugars and proteins that appear in your deposits, and also evaluate your body-mass index. And some of the new devices even helpfully have LED night lights built in to the toilet lid.
In short, we may be on the cusp of the next great advance in toilet technology, when your home bathroom turns into a laboratory of devices that collect and analyze number one and number two, evaluate the blood flow in your cheeks, and consider God knows what else in order to provide you with a detailed, up-to-the-minute report on your personal health status — all of which will be transmitted and stored somewhere.
Terrifying, isn’t it?
When I went to the grocery store yesterday, I walked down an aisle and saw, to my dismay, that Halloween stuff was on sale already — even though it’s just the beginning of September. But I was really stopped in my tracks when I saw this product for sale, right there next to the bags of candy and trick or treat decorations.
It’s a “Jokin’ on the John” motion-activated toilet seat cover. Put this on, and when the lid to the commode is lifted, you get treated to one of several jokes delivered by this crazy-eyed cackling witch. It’s one of a number of “Jokin’ in the John” products that can help you celebrate Halloween. Others include “Flush ‘n Stein,” a motion activated Frankenstein figure holding a plunger who is supposed to be put on top of the toilet and then tells jokes and sings a song, as well as a wisecracking ghost armed with a plunger and a mummy-type figure whose wrapping is toilet paper.
An entire “Jokin’ in the John” line of products, offered by Hallmark, of all places? Apparently the bathroom, one of the last bastions of peace and quiet and normalcy in an overdecorated holiday world, is viewed as the new frontier for holiday-themed “humor” products. It’s there, ready to be invaded by cackling witches and other intrusive figures whose handful of allegedly funny phrases would get old pretty darned fast. And speaking as a representative of the older generation that now has to make more nocturnal visits to the bathroom than they used to, I can’t imagine wanting to have any talking, motion-activated items in there to startle me when I stumble in at 3 a.m.
It’s bad enough that Halloween now gets celebrated for about two full months — can’t we leave the bathroom out of it?
People often have romantic notions about the kings and queens of yore. We think about turreted castles and fluttering pennants and knights in shining armor, but not about the uglier, nitty gritty details of what life was really like in those days — before modern dentistry, and the invention of air conditioning, and countless other developments that contribute every day to making our lives much better than they have ever been before.
Indoor plumbing obviously is one of those developments. Which raises the question: how did kings deal with that essential aspect of the human existence?
Historians note that England’s King Henry VIII — he of the six wives — actually had a courtier called the Groom of the Stool to take care of that element of the King’s daily routine. The GOTS apparently was a high-ranking (if not coveted) position that involves taking careful notes about the monarch’s bowel movements and maintaining the “Stool Room.” The Stool Room was a private privy where the King used a padded chair “covered in sheepskin, black velvet, and ribbons” positioned above a pewter chamber pot to take care of business.
Other members of the Court had their own private rooms with their own chamber pots, but the masses weren’t quite so lucky. The article linked above indicates that servants working at the King’s palace tended to answer the call of nature in whatever happened to be nearby. Fireplaces and the stone walls of the castle were popular targets, giving the castle a distinct aroma by the end of a long day. And visitors and the staff also used a huge, open-air facility called the “Great House of Easement” that had 28 seats and no stalls or interior walls. The facility and its tank were cleaned by a group of boys called the Gong Scourers who were appointed by the King.
Still entertaining romantic notions those days of olde?
Airport bathrooms have got to be among the most brutal to clean. So what, exactly, does the custodial staff at a major American airport use to get disgusting bathrooms spic and span? According to this cart, it’s a mop, a bucket of soapy water, lots of paper towels, and a cleaner called Bab-O.
Bab-O? I’ve never heard of it. But if these guys use it it must be good.
When we bought our house we knew the upstairs bathroom was a do-it-yourself job and that we would have to fix it some day. Today, that day came. The bathroom is being stripped down to the studs, exposing the brickwork of our middle-of-the-house chimney, and then completely rebuilt from the two-by-fours up.
Because we live in a two-bathroom house, this means that, for the next two weeks, we’ll be exclusively using the shower and toilet in the downstairs bathroom. Nothing wrong with that, right? Not unless you’re a guy in his late 50s who typically makes at least one trip to the bathroom every night. Until the upstairs bathroom is back on line, I’m going to have to be very careful about my fluid intake.
Recently I was on the Otterbein University campus and had reason to visit the facilities, where I was struck by this sign posted on the mirror. It made me wonder: What kind of kids are going to Otterbein these days that they would come into the bathroom needing to wash off scum? I’m all in favor of rhyming, but it’s not exactly the kind of message that makes you want to sit on, or otherwise touch, any surfaces on the Otterbein campus.