PermaLink 1949: a good year for toilets04/03/2006 11:06 AM

The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again
In my day job, over the last several years, they've replaced all the toilets as the bathrooms get remodeled.  This has been a good thing in some ways, but in other ways, it's kind of screwed up.

I remember the first time I saw one of these things, with the little infrared sensor on the wall.  I was insulted.  "Jeez, they don't even trust us to flush the damn toilet!" I said out loud to nobody.  A few years before, it had been those asinine toilet-seat liners, which seemingly have popped up everywhere and anywhere, inviting people to make an even bigger mess when the things don't automatically get pulled into the bowl.  What's more, anyone with a middle-school understanding of bacteriology knows that germs don't survive long on a dry surface, and if that surface ain't dry, well... the little tissue liner isn't gonna help.

But the automatic flush valves were something else.  And of course, they were coupled with these new "water-saving" toilets that always seem to require three flushes to accomplish anything.

The sensors themselves are sort of wacky.  Since they go on changes in infrared reflection, they tend to way over-flush.  You open the stall door, they flush.  You sit down, they flush randomly.  You lean forward, they flush again.  You get done and get up, they flush (as presumably intended).  You pull your pants up and buckle them, they flush again.  Sometimes, they flush for no damn reason, even if no one is in the stall.

At the other extreme, there's this one urinal which seems to be a detector for zombies.  I mean, someone stands in front of it, it's supposed to detect them and then flush when they step away, right?  How come when I go in there, there always seems to be one unflushed urinal.  Doesn't matter which bathroom.  Since these things detect body heat, all I can conclude is that about a third of my co-workers are in fact animatronic zombies.

At least, I thought that until I bought The Gray Polo Shirt.  If I wear that shirt, I, too, do not set off the Magic Urinal.  I've experimented with the thing, even to the point of pulling my shirt up and displaying my bare belly to the sensor, thinking it would validate my existence as a living human.  It was not fooled.  It sees The Gray Polo Shirt, it won't flush.  The urinals don't even have that emergency-override button the stalls have (I've looked).

At home, I have two:  one in the basement (that used to be in the upstairs) that dates to the 1930s, and one upstairs toilet that dates to 1949 (most home toilets, if you pick up the cover on the tank, there's a date in there when the thing was cast and fired).  The upstairs one is starting to show some ominous crackling in the glaze on the tank, to the point where I think it's liable to crack apart and flood the place one day.  However, when I go to replace it, I'm not buying one of these new damn "water-saving" units, I'm going to one of those stores that has antique fixtures and I'm buying another one from 1949 if I can find it.  

A good year for them, I think, back in those days before your santitation device questioned your humanity.

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