When employees can't deliver what they're supposed to, it's called burnout. When it happens to a writer, it's known as writer's block. In either case, it amounts to professional constipation.
That is what has happened here. I've been trying to write about the fact that so many nations once again have banded together (as has happened often in recent weeks), only this time to rally around the debut World Toilet Summit. The goal is to create another agency for our security, the World Toilet Organization.
But, despite the potent subject matter, the words just haven't come easily. Where does one even begin? So often in life we take the elemental things for granted. We worry/jockey for a slicker job, get an SUV that seats more people than we actually know, or go for a new and improved romance when actually -- if a few of the basic elements were better -- we might not be so discontent in the first place.
How many times has a better cup of morning coffee, a quick phone call to an old friend or a walk in the middle of a work day tremendously improved your mood -- and, thus, your quality of life?
And how many times have you found yourself in the bathroom and discovered after it was too late that no one had bothered to replace the toilet paper? Had you only bothered to check for it!!!
Loathing of self and of fellow man inevitably follows; blood pressure rises, and suddenly a simple situation has made the world a sad and frustrating place. Your chances of dying of anthrax are miniscule, but the cumulative effect of moments like this could one day cause your heart to just explode.
In preventing such tragedies, the work of the World Toilet Summit could save lives. The fearless pioneering defenders of the public's right to gracious peeing came from 15 countries, congregating in Singapore (where not flushing is a fineable offense) to discuss the betterment of ventilation, sanitation, conservation and -- according to the summit's website (www. toinet.org/summit2001.htm) -- conversation. "It must not remain a taboo," the website says. "People must feel free to talk about it in the way they speak about other things."
Underscoring the estimable work of the summit, Britain recently held its 14th annual "Loo of the Year" awards (http://freespace.virgin.net/martin.higham/index2.html), which considers such qualities as air quality, security and decor. Considering America's fetish with all things hypoallergenic, if we handed out these honors in this country, we'd have an event that would draw more viewers than the Oscars and many other award shows that frequently deserve the royal flush.
Had we known there was going to be a World Toilet Summit, we would have trotted right over with a list of suggestions and nailed them to the door a la Martin Luther, but here are some suggestions for next year. These may be helpful to business owners who want to win the Bathroom of the Year competition, if it ever becomes an annual event to rival the Super Bowl. (In fact, that's a good name for it.)
(1) Locate and fine women who splash the seat. Girls, you know what I'm talking about. You walk into a public bathroom, and it looks like a 4-year-old boy with poor aim has been in there instead of another woman who should not be able to spray like a sprinkler had she been toilet-trained properly in her youth. Powerful flushing mechanisms may seem responsible for this, but I've seen cases that suggest otherwise and believe it to be the work of seat hoverers. Squatters' rights should be eliminated.
(2) Would it kill someone to design a sink counter that slants down and away from you so you don't lean into collected water and get a wet line across your crotch, suggesting to everyone that you're not very observant?
(3) Simple solution to overcrowded ladies' rooms: Let women use men's rooms as well as their own. This would give shy girls privacy, desperate girls options and men something else to laugh about.
(4) How come they play music so loud in bars that you have to shriek to be heard, but in bathrooms -- where you don't want to hear a damn thing -- the sound is as silent as a morgue? Music should blast in the bathroom. Make it operetta and people will get the hell out of there faster.
(5) Toilet paper does grow on trees. How come there's never enough of it? Are we one day to suffer blow dryers in the stalls, too (just like hand dryers at sinks)?
(6) Don't just fine those who never learned how to flush a toilet; make them take group classes, like when you get a traffic ticket and have to go to driving school. March the violators into the most public restroom available and have them all take a turn pushing the handle and making the magic happen.
(7) Bathroom attendants. Do they have a use, other than collecting dollar bills?
With a few minor improvements, one of life's most fundamental experiences could become so much better. Maybe the World Toilet Organization will take some of my suggestions into account so that the experience of using a public restroom leaves us all a little less pissed.
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