Friday, December 7, 2007

From The Potty Files: The Brits Love Their Lager And Their Loos!

Okay. Everybody like a client potty when the urge hits. But I don't think we Americans are as obsessed about the toilet as our friends across the great Atlantic in the UK. They have taken the crapper, or should I say the loo, to new heights. They are obsessed with their public restrooms. Maybe it's because they drink so much of that warm beer that they have to pee all the time. I really can't say but read on and you'll understand...

It seems that in the city of Westminster, the toilet has come to revered and worshipped. so much in fact that they have luxury toilets, design contests and even cell phone text services. Okay, that one is going a bitt too far but it's true. I went to the Ciyt of Westminster's website and seared for "toilet" and found lots of storys about their "loo's." Here are some highlights.

A new service promises Londoners they'll never have to spend much time looking for the loo. Westminster City Council, which covers London's bustling Oxford Street, the West End, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, on Thursday launched "SatLav" - a toilet-finding service for cell phone users. Tourists, theatergoers, shoppers and pub patrons in London's West End can now text the word "toilet" - and receive a text back with the address of the nearest public facility. The system, which covers 40 public toilets, pinpoints the caller's position by measuring the strength of the phone signal. The texts cost about 50 cents, and most of Westminster's toilets are free. The council said it hopes the service will stop people from urinating in alleyways, saying some 10,000 gallons of urine ends up in Westminster streets each year. Companies such as Vindigo Inc. in the U.S. offers similar cell phone searches but SatLav is being touted as the first text-based toilet-finder in Britain. "It's the first fully managed service that we're aware of," British Toilet Association director Richard Chisnell said, praising the council. "Thank heavens for Westminster's public toilets," he said. Pour me another pint...I've got to pee!

On April 30th, those wacky Brits installed their "pisser de resistance!" The "toilet-pod", which cost 52,000 pounds, is egg-shaped and has been likened to an "igloo" by the local community who worked with the architect on the design. It has been specifically designed for local children, community groups and disabled users who can find it difficult to locate a suitable loo in Soho – an area renowned for its bustling nightlife. Stephen Johnson, the architect behind the toilet, said: "It’s been a pleasure to build and I’m so excited about the launch. This has been a really worthy project and it certainly brings the art back into going to the toilet." Measuring 12ft in height, comparable to the height of a bungalow, it has been carefully crafted out of local woods - chestnut, oak and other softwoods and will be heated and insulated to keep users warm in the winter. Councillor Alan Bradley, Cabinet Member for Street Environment said: "The toilet is a wonderful idea and it is been a pleasure to work with the local community in delivering such a central feature to the area. Not only is the toilet functional but it’s also a piece of art." The toilet will be free to use and will be used by key holders and monitored by park attendants. The loo is unisex and has one toilet especially to cater for kids and one for adults.

Olympic Gold medallist Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson recently opened the first accessible toilet of its kind in London to mark International Day of Disabled People. The brand new “Changing Places” toilet opened to the public renovation of the public conveniences at Victoria Embankment – which are used by around 500,000 people a year. The high-tech accessible toilet includes the latest technology to assist disabled users such as a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist. It is the first completely public toilet of its kind in the capital – similar toilets can be found at the Tate Modern, Acton College, Plaistow Community Centre and East Ham Leisure Centre. The Changing Places Consortium launched the campaign on behalf of the thousands of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their carers, and the many other disabled people who cannot use standard accessible toilets. Now that's a good idea especially when those "learning disabled" people drink too much!

Westminster City Council is set to safeguard some of the best provision of public toilets in the country, by leasing out four more of its award-winning public conveniences. Latest figures reveal that an amazing 15 million people visit our council conveniences each year, equivalent to three times the population of Scotland. The leasing proposals are part of a strategy to help secure the continued unrivalled provision and high quality standards of public conveniences in Westminster in the face of rising costs and increased demand. The new charges at the four toilets, used primarily by visitors and tourists, are expected to be 50 pence per user. However all toilets in the busy West End will remain free and you still we be allowed to pee on the floor after 6 or 7 pints!

Ahh those wacky Brits. I thought I was the only one who was obsessed with a clean crapper but these folks got me beat. As the old saying goes..."No matter how you shake it, bang it, or bounce it off the wall. No matter what you do, those last three drops will fall. Now if only the Brits can figure out how to light a bowl in a dark bathroom so I don't have to spray back and forth until I can center it on the water. Come on folks, design something!