By RICH FOLEY
Sunday, Nov. 19, is, believe it or not, World Toilet Day. The World Toilet Organization was founded on that day in 2001 during the inaugural World Toilet Summit. World Toilet Day’s mission is to help raise awareness of a crisis in sanitation. It’s estimated that over two billion people worldwide lack access to a working toilet.
The WTO’s goal is to make availability of toilets more of a priority. A joint initiative between the WTO and the government of Singapore led to that country’s first United Nations resolution in 2013, asking for action on the sanitation issue. The resolution was co-sponsored by 122 countries and World Toilet Day became an official UN day.
Despite the seriousness of its intent, I have to chuckle at the WTO’s willingness to go along with the jokes people are bound to make about a day recognizing toilets. That’s easy to do when you’re one of those fortunate enough to have a toilet, but at least it helps to raise awareness of the problem which is the whole point of the day.
The WTO’s website slyly invites visitors to join the “movement” and offers ideas on “how to raise a stink for UN World Toilet Day.” Also, there’s a series of cartoons featuring a pile of, shall we say, poo. He or she has eyes, a mouth, arms and legs, allowing the apparently living poo pile to ride a bike and fly a plane. The poo even skippers a boat, wearing a captain’s hat that I’m sure no one has ever asked to borrow.
The website also has a selection of stories about real-life projects. including one from a group of students in Taiwan who made popsicles from polluted water to highlight bad sanitation around the world. Anyone care for an icy treat containing dirt, cigarette butts, dead fish, bottle caps and other tasty stuff? The photos are especially disgusting.
But weird things get in the water even in more developed parts of the planet. Officials in Switzerland were baffled by a series of clogged toilets earlier this year. Three restaurants and a bank in Geneva had the problem, found to be caused by wads of cut up paper money, Attempts to flush the cash down the toilets were unsuccessful.
The total exceeded 100,000 euros, which converts to about $120,000 in our currency. Although there were two suspects, authorities were not able to link them to a robbery or other criminal activity so they could not be charged. Through a lawyer, they did pay for plumbing damages. If they were trying to launder the money, I think they picked the wrong appliance.
Some of that cash could have been spent on the ultimate toilet, the Dagobert Toilet Throne. Made in France, it stands five feet tall and actually resembles a throne. It features an ashtray, candleholder and a seat coated with seven layers of polyurethane to help prevent damage from you know what. According to the company, customers have included tennis great Boris Becker, Tina Turner and the late George Harrison. If you’ve got $20,000 you don’t mind figuratively flushing down the toilet, you could buy one, too.
Or you could visit New York City and spend a few minutes in what has to be one of the country’s fanciest public bathrooms. The newly remodeled facilities opened in April in a park behind the New York Public Library in Manhattan.
When it was decided to renovate the bathroom, making it bigger wasn’t an option because the park area is considered a scenic landmark, precluding a bigger building. Instead, nearly $300,000, plus many donated components not included in that figure, made it much fancier.
The walls and floors are covered in tiles from Italy and Spain and are decorated with artwork created by local artists. The stalls have fancy wooden doors and fresh flowers delivered daily brighten up the sink area. Donations from a manufacturer in Japan provided self-flushing, energy saving toilets and hands-free faucets and wash basins.
A Florida firm provided “sanitary, electronic seat covers that rotate with each use.” I’m not really sure what that even means. I’ve always been a bit surprised when I visit facilities with self-flushing toilets and they do their thing unexpectedly. But seat covers that rotate? That I would have to see, at least I will if I ever visit New York City again. I suppose that’s one way I could celebrate World Toilet Day.