BACK TO Home Page 50 CONVERSATION TOPICS Toilets

Stories you can use to start conversation or to add interest to speeches or presentations


Resources for Speakers - Anecdotes About Toilets and Toilet Humour

The Joy of Farting

Penn State Harrisburg doctoral graduate Trevor Blank won the W.W. Newell Prize, which all sounds very high brow until you keep reading. He won it for his essay, "Cheeky Behavior: The Meaning and Function of 'Fartlore' in Childhood Adolescence." "Everybody farts," said Blank. In the course of his research, he heard such myths as "Girls don't fart" and "When girls fart, it smells better than boys." In case you were wondering, Blank can inform you that men fart 14 to 15 times a day, while women do so a mere eight to nine times. I'll spare you some finer points. You can thank me later.

Other tooting trivia: kids have been sent to the principal's office for it, one was arrested for breaking wind "deliberately and maliciously," and "Walter the Farting Dog" was banned in some school libraries, Blank said. For Fartlore, Blank (that's Dr. Blank to you, now that he's earned his Ph.D.) researched mentions of passing gas in children's literature and then set out to explain it. He found Pennsylvania boys playing "Safety," a farting game, the same as Blank had as a kid in Maryland, and the same game John Bourke documented in the 1890s, when it was called "Touch Wood." Basically, a boy who farts must say "Safety" or touch wood before his friends say another key phrase. If not, they're allowed to punch him. (It usually is boys who make farting a game or a weapon.)

Japanese Toilets

The SEGA video company's Japan division began test-marketing its new Toylets game in January, designed for men's urinals. With sensors in the basin and a video screen at eye level, men score points based on the strength and accuracy of their streams. Among the suite of games: sumo wrestling (squirt the opponent out of the circle), graffiti-erasure (strong streams wipe out more graffiti), and skirt-raising (the stronger the stream, the higher a woman's skirt is "blown" upward)

A security lab, delivering a report to the makers of software for a luxury Japanese toilet, warned that a flaw in their Android program renders the toilet hackable--even while a user sits on it. The Satis (which retails for the equivalent of about $5,600) includes automatic flushing, bidet spray, fragrance-spritzing, and music, according to an August BBC News report, and is controllable by a "My Satis" cell phone app. However, the PIN to operate the app is unalterably "0000," which means that a prankster with the app could create some very uncomfortable mischief in a public restroom.

Toilets in Africa

Western nations and foundations have tried for decades to build sewage treatment plants in sub-Sahara Africa, with little success (since many countries lack stable governments to assess operating fees), and to this day, raw sewage is still merely collected and dumped, either in rivers or directly onto beaches, such as the notorious (and formerly beautiful) Lavender Hill in Ghana. U.S. entrepreneurs recently established Waste Enterprises in Ghana to build the first-ever fecal-sludge-to-biodiesel plant (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). Feces undiluted by water, and then heated, is highly concentrated and more resembles coal than the goo that Americans associate with sewage.

Glass Toilets

Pic of public toilet in Switzerland on a busy street corner, made of one-way glass - can't see in but can see out - but would you use it?

Olympian Problem

Despite repeated assurances by Olympic officials, it appears more certain than ever that 2016 boating and surfing events in Brazil's Guanabara Bay and Rodrigo de Freitas Lake will be conducted in water so polluted with human sewage that every athlete will almost certainly be struck with fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. An August Associated Press report revealed the waters' virus levels (of fecal coliform and other viruses) as high as two million times the level that would close down a California beach. (Olympic and local officials continue to insist that the water will be safe by next summer, but, as the AP pointed out, their protocols test only for bacteria and not viruses. One U.S. water-quality expert advised all athletes to move to Rio ahead of the games--to try to build up an immunity.)

Monitoring Drug Use

London has the highest concentration of cocaine in sewage of any of 50 major European cities, a report shows. Figures based on the testing of waste water put the capital slightly ahead of Amsterdam for traces of the drug. The results, in the annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, support other research showing that Britain has the highest rate of use of the Class A drug among young adults in Europe. Scientists found 737mg of cocaine for every 1,000 people per week in 2014. It peaked on Fridays and Saturdays before falling away on Sundays and Mondays. The smallest amount was found in Jyvaskyla in Finland, with 0.2mg per 1,000 people.
Monitoring waste water is seen as a way of providing a more accurate assessment of drug consumption and its distinct patterns over a year. It involves sampling a source of waste water which allows scientists to estimate the quantity of drugs consumed by measuring levels excreted in urine.
An estimated 9.5 per cent of people aged 15-64 in Britain said that they had used cocaine at least once.

Mobile Toilets

An English builder complained that his mobile bathroom had been stolen - self contained toilet shower and vanity that he used to tow to clients while he was renovating their bathroom

Portable Toilets

Urine-covered pavements could soon be a thing of the past in Cologne, Germany, after the invention of a pocket urinal. A company has developed a disposable single-use device and is selling it in the city. The Adamus, which holds just over a pint of liquid, offers both men and women the chance to relieve themselves while wearing their trousers or skirt. The men’s version has a 2in diameter hole, while the women’s has an extra funnel attachment, named the “Pippi Lissi”. Once filled, the pocket lavatory is designed to be sealed and thrown into a bin without spillage. “I can turn it upside down and none falls out,” Adamus’s marketing director, Karsten Nordhausen, enthused.

Japan is looking into installing toilets and emergency drinking water in buildings' lifts in case people are trapped after earthquakes. Officials from the country's infrastructure ministry met industry representatives to discuss the proposals in the aftermath of Saturday's 7.8-magnitude undersea quake, which was felt across the country. One idea is that lifts could be fitted with portable toilets featuring a waterproof bag or other absorbent material inside a collapsible cardboard structure.

Just call it Pooh ...

Our friends at Improbable Research are alerted by Tony Tweedale to a study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, which identifies a lack of “semantic standards” when it comes to presenting data on microbiome samples.

The origin of the microbes was variously described as feces, faeces, odure, manure, excreta and stool, meaning that searching any one term was unlikely to flush out all of the material available.

Feedback hopes that the finding prompts researchers to get their, er, act together, and settle on a definitive term for dung once and for all.

Animal Poop

A German farmer showered a group of trance music fans with manure after they refused to end their party. The farmer in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania tried to persuade the gathering of 40 Goa trance fans — who had organised a mini-festival in his field without permission — to stop the event. When they refused, he drove a muck-spreader to the field and splattered them with liquidised animal waste.

Deadly Fart

A single fart led to the death of 10,000 people in Jerusalem in 44 A.D. A Roman soldier farted through a doorway of a temple, angering the congregation, some of whom began stoning soldiers. Eventually the Roman leader, Cumanus (really, that was his name), sent an army to regain control of the city, which caused a riot. Majority of the people that died were Jews who trampled over each other while they tried to escaped the temple. You can read about it here: The Jewish War, Josephus (37-100)

Timekeeping Advice

If you spend an average of 10 minutes a day on the toilet, make sure you do it at work. That way the company will have paid you for more than 40 hours of pooping by the end of the year. (The internet is just FULL of useful advice!)

Behind the Scenes

Dubai is a city of towering, architecturally brilliant skyscrapers, but since all were built only in the last several decades, the city's central sewer system has not been able to keep up. Consequently, reported NPR's "Fresh Air" in November, only a few are hooked up to the municipal system, and the remainder must hire fleets of tanker trucks to carry away the waste water. The trucks then must queue up, sometimes for 24 hours at a time, to dispose of it at treatment plants.

Wash Your Hands

Washroom hot air blowers actually least hygenic because they suck in air, including toilet vapour, then warm it gently before depositing it on your hands and clothes - and because people tend to be impatient, they can't wait for fully dry and so walk out wiping their hands on clothes (or hair), invariably winding up with more bacteria than started with - paper or roller towels better

Perspective:

Of the world's 7 billion people, an estimated 2.6 billion do not have toilet access, and every day, a reported 4,000 children die from sanitation-related illnesses. However, in May, in Portland, Ore., Douglas Eki and "Jason" Doctolero were awarded $332,000 for wrongful firing because they complained about being inconvenienced at work by not having an easily-available toilet. Menzies Aviation had arranged for the men to use facilities at nearby businesses at their Portland International Airport site, but the men said they felt unwelcome at those places and continued to complain (and use buckets). One juror said afterward that having easy access to a toilet was a "basic human right," citing the "dignity [of] being able to go to the bathroom within 30 seconds or a minute." Said Doctolero, "Hopefully, no one will have to suffer what I went through."

Flying Toilets

South African townships flying toilets (plastic bag; fling; crash lands on yr roof)

Poo Lake

The second-largest lake in Bolivia is called Lake Poopo. It is not a freshwater lake.

Toilets for Men

German toilet which berates men "Put that seat down. You know you'll only make a mess"

A 2009 Russian patent addressed the problem of tank crews having nowhere to defecate. It proposed a small bag which was then screwed into the nose cone of a shell which was then fired at the enemy. The patent went into some detail as to the psychological effects such shells would have on the opposition forces.

New York Street Toilets

Hitech NY street toilets 25c for 20 mins - everyone interviewed went "Hmmmm... 20 minutes huh?"

Public Peeing

Drinkers who relieve themselves in east London will be soaked by their own urine as the council tests a splashback paint. The “anti-pee” coating will be put on walls in Shoreditch and Dalston. It creates a barrier that repels liquid, causing urine to bounce off the wall and back at the offender, covering their shoes and clothes. Hackney council is the first in Britain to try the paint, after its success in cities such as San Francisco. It spends £100,000 a year clearing up urine, and has fined more than 500 people for public urination this year. “If the prospect of a fine doesn’t put them off, maybe the risk of getting covered in urine will,” Feryal Dermici, the council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said.

London

Ten years ago, after an epic boozy lunch, Oborne got off the Tube at Embankment, desperately needing to relieve himself. Without a loo in sight, he headed for the river and crept down the steps leading to the Thames, only to slip on the slime and take a bath. Unbeaten by this drenching, he squelched up to the Strand, walked through the doors of Savoy Taylors Guild and bought a new suit before returning to the office with a clearer head and a good anecdote.

London

The most recent fatwa, announced in April by the Directorate of Religious Affairs in Turkey, declared that "toilet paper" is now acceptable for devout Muslims. The Directorate had previously decreed that only water could be used for such cleaning (or, if none was available, the left hand). (Toilet etiquette, called "Qadaa al-Haajah," which obviously predates the invention of the actual "toilet," requires entrance by the left foot, exit by the right, a post-ablution prayer, and, most challengingly, "no reading.")

A Famous Name

To most, the toilet is merely functional, but to brilliant thinkers, it can be the birthplace of masterpieces. Thus, the price tags were high this summer [2010] when commodes belonging to two creative giants went on sale. In August, a gaudily designed toilet from John Lennon's 1969-71 residence in Berkshire, England, fetched 9,500 pounds (about $14,740) at a Liverpool auction, and a North Carolina collectibles dealer opened bids on the toilet upon which reclusive author J.D. Salinger spent many hours while at his home in Cornish, N.H. The dealer's initial price was $1 million because, "Who knows how many of Salinger's stories were thought up and written while [he] sat on this throne!"

It's Not Just For Goldfish

The New Waterboarding: In April [2009], the district attorney in Vilas County, Wis., announced that he was seeking volunteers for a forensic test to help his case against Douglas Plude, 42, who [was] scheduled to stand trial soon for the second time in the death of his wife. The volunteers must be female, about five-feet-eight and 140 pounds, and will have to stick their heads into a toilet bowl and flush. Plude is charged with drowning his wife in a commode, but his version (which the prosecutor will try to show is improbable) is that his wife committed suicide by flushing herself.

Bar Toilets

Bar in Queenstown NZ installed, in the mens' urinal, lifesize cutout photos of models - one with a camera, one with binoculars, third with tape measure, all laughing incredulously

Two Brazilian firms collaborated recently to test a whimsical device that could perhaps lessen splashing on men's room floors: a urinal containing a fretboard that makes musical sounds as liquid hits it (if the stream is strong enough). According to a May report in the Brazilian edition of Billboard magazine, versions were set up in several Sao Paulo bars to see if men's aims improved. (Flushing produces an online address from which a sound recording of the user's "music" can be retrieved.)

In a project that has already gone live in 200 Michigan bars and restaurants, the state's Office of Highway Safety Planning has installed "talking" urinal cakes featuring a female announcer urging inebriated patrons to call a taxi.

Toilet in the Shower

Urinate in the Shower to Save the Forests: The Brazilian environmental group SOS Mata Atlantica this summer began encouraging people to urinate in the shower to save the Atlantic Rainforest (one avoided flush per day saving 1,100 gallons of water a year)

Remote Controlled

But What If the Device Falls into the Wrong Hands? A 55-year-old British man whose bowel was ruptured in a nearly catastrophic traffic accident has been fitted with a bionic sphincter that opens and closes with a remote controller. Ged Galvin had originally endured 13 surgeries in a 13-week hospital stay and had grown frustrated with using a colostomy bag until surgeon Norman Williams of the Royal London Hospital proposed the imaginative operation. Dr. Williams wrapped a muscle transplanted from Galvin's leg around the sphincter and attached electrodes to tighten or loosen its grip.

Watch Where You Go

A 35-year-old man was shot to death in Wilkinsburg, Pa., in September when he took a break from a game of dominoes on a second-floor balcony around 11 p.m. and urinated over the rail. Unfortunately, an unidentified man was walking below. He yelled, "Yo! Yo!" and fired several gunshots, killing the urinator.

Pranksters and Toilets

In Colorado a 57 year old man was superglued to a toilet seat by pranksters - cries for help were ignored for two hours - when they finally got in the paramedics they had to remove toilet seat and take him to hospital still attached (suing for humiliation)

Political Correctness and Toilets

New Zealand tramping club forced to install wheelchair ramp to toilet installed at a hut two days trek into wilderness

Toilet Paper Stories

In a country where ghosts are traditionally believed to hide in the loo, a Japanese company is advertising a new literary experience - a horror story printed on toilet paper. "Drop," set in a public restroom, takes up about three feet (90 centimeters) of a roll and can be read in just a few minutes, according to the manufacturer, Hayashi Paper.

Toilet Paper Adverts

Jordan and Bryan Silverman's start-up venture, Star Toilet Paper, distributes rolls to public restrooms in restaurants, stadiums, and other locations absolutely free - because the brothers have sold ads on each sheet. (Company slogan: "Don't rush. Look [at the ads] before you flush.") Jordan, with 50 advertisers enlisted so far, told the Detroit Free Press in August that he came up with the idea, of course, while sitting on the can at the University of Michigan library.

Green Toilets

When people tout the environmental benefits of a personal consumption decision, whether it be using cloth diapers, eating organic produce, or buying recycled paper products, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am glad they are using persuasion instead of force to get their way (although today's voluntary gesture of environmental consciousness has a way of becoming tomorrow's government mandate). On the other hand, I am doubtful that the allegedly green choice will amount to much, either because its benefits do not really outweigh its costs, because few people will adopt it, or because the consequences of even broad adoption will be trivial in the grand scheme of things. As the long-running diaper and grocery bag debates illustrate, calculating the environmental impact of a particular product choice can be a complicated business, involving an analysis of production, transportation, use and disposal. Recycling makes sense when its full cost is outweighed by the price the recycled materials fetch and/or the cost of disposal. When this is not the case, recycling actually wastes resources.

When a woman heard loud shouts from the next-door basement at 5am, she feared her neighbour was being attacked and called police. Officers raced to the house in Victoria, British Columbia, but found no cause for alarm. Deputy police chief John Ducker explained: "When questioned about the amount of noise he was making, the man explained he had been on the lavatory but was done now. The officers asked him to keep the noise down in such future endeavours. He said he would do his best."

The Poopers and the Pissers

The Christmas Nativity scenes in northeast Spain's Catalonia region have, for three centuries, featured not only Mary and the Three Wise Men but the ubiquitous "caganer" icon, always portrayed with pants down answering a call of nature (and often so obscured in the scene as to popularize where's-waldo-type guessing by children). The origin of the caganer (literally, "pooper") is unclear, but some regard it merely as symbolic of equality (in that everyone has bowel movements). Catalonia is now home to artists who craft statuettes of religious figures poised to relieve themselves, and the franchise extends to renditions of sports figures and celebrities (and even a squatting President Bush). One family in Girona province sells about 25,000 a year, according to a November dispatch in Germany's Der Spiegel.

Recently a Pixaner, or pissing statue, has been added

Update 2014: Among planet Earth's most bizarre local customs is the Christmas tradition in Spain's Catalonia region of decorating Nativity scenes with figurines of famous people squatting, answering nature's calls. News of the Weird has noted that Presidents (Bush and Obama) have been "honored" with posterior-baring statuettes, along with Queen Elizabeth. Right on cue this past Christmas, Spanish artists unveiled "caganers" in the images of Pope Francis and Nelson Mandela.

In January 2015, "Captain Mercedes," a registered user of the Reddit.com social media site, announced he had compiled a data file cataloguing every bowel movement he had in 2014 and was offering the file to other users to design hypotheses and visual representations of the data in ways that might improve his relationship with his alimentary canal. According to the data- analysis website FiveThirtyEight.com, the "researcher" used the standard "Bristol stool scale" (seven categories of excreta, by shape and consistency) "and produced interesting hypotheses in the ensuing Reddit conversation." [FiveThirtyEight.com, 1-25-2015] [Reddit.com/user/captainmercedes]

Buffalo Poop

In October, the super-enthusiastic winners of a Kingston, Ontario, radio station contest claimed their prize: the chance to don gloves and dig for free Buffalo Bills' football tickets (value $320), buried in buffalo manure in a child's plastic inflatable pool. The show's host, Sarah Crosbie, reported the digging live (but, overcome by the smell, vomited on the air). More curious was a runner-up contestant, who continued to muck around for the second prize even though it was only tickets to a local zoo.

Toilets and Agriculture

Throughout history many big agricultural civilizations have risen and fallen, sometimes victims of climate change but usually because they managed to impoverish their fields. All except the Chinese, who managed to keep intensive agriculture going for millenia - secret? nightsoil, lots of it, liberally and continually applied to the soil

Dumping Toilet Paper?

The price of toilet paper is not generally top of mind, so most consumers would not have realised that cheap imports from China and India - most of them parcelled up into the Select brand for the Woolworths and Safeway supermarket chains - have been keeping their ablutionary costs down. The Home Affairs Minister, Bob Debus, has now accepted the results of a year-long Australian Customs Service investigation, which found that imported toilet papers are coming in at prices almost 40 per cent below "normal" and hurting local manufacturers. Woolies' brand may have kept a lid on toilet paper prices but Kimberly-Clark and SCA, which have the lion's share of the toilet paper market, complain the imports are unfairly damaging their businesses because the prices at which they are being sold are below the costs of production - that is, dumping.

27000 trees are felled each day to make toilet paper

Advertsing

The makers of a product called Poo-Pourri garnered a "coveted" advertising award from USA Today in December as one of the five worst of the year. Toilet users concerned about smell are encouraged to spray Poo-Pourri on the commode, pre-use, and in the television ad, a British-accented female sits on the throne, extolling the product. Opening line: "You would not believe the mother lode I just dropped." (Nonetheless, USA Today still found two other ads that upset its editors more.)






BACK TO Home Page 50 CONVERSATION TOPICS


Book Extracts on Toilets