The ‘Times’ Is Back on the Toilet BeatLike you, we go to the New York Times for the thoughtfully written and fastidiously reported coverage of the most important issues in New York and our world. Unlike other media outlets, the Times doesn’t pander to popular tastes: It brings you news you should know, rather than news you want to know. Which is why we’re pleased that the paper of record has added to its coverage of poverty and genocide another topic that has heretofore gone tragically undercovered: the public toilets of New York. Last week, the paper lingered over the details and craftsmanship of the city’s new pay-per-use public toilets: “There are two architectural flourishes, both on the roof: a small pyramid of glass, like a little model of the Louvre, and an anachronistic metal stovepipe, reminiscent of a cozy shanty or an old outhouse with a crescent moon carved into the door,” the paper mused, then went on to note: “But no one goes to a bathroom to look at it.” And what a shame that is, someone must have decided, because over the weekend, two reporters traveled around the city to examine some of New York’s older public toilets, and found that perhaps, some these facilities have been undervalued. Such as the bathroom in the New York Public Library:
Located in a small carved stone building, the restrooms have a large bouquet of sunflowers, Casablanca lilies and eucalyptus in a stone vase near the entrance. They smell beautiful.
The bathroom stalls in the women’s room are unusually wide, about eight inches wider than the usual economy-class stalls found in most public restrooms. A sign above a red button reads, “Push RED button for a new, clean toilet seat cover.” A push, and the cover appears.
And at the St. Regis:
The lighting fixtures are crystal and the faucets polished brass. A red flowering plant smells sweet. No one else is there.
Don’t have time to visit these architectural wonders yourself? There’s a slideshow of them on the. Times Website. Alas, it is not scent-enabled.
Less Hype, But At Least These Restrooms Are Free [NYT]
in other news
‘Times,’ Toilet Meet CuteWhen we heard about futuristic new self-cleaning public toilets that the city unveiled, we went right to our favorite sources for this type of coverage. “WHAT A RELIEF,” the Daily News said, under a headline that read: “AND A-WEE WE GO” The Post led with “Helle-LOO-jah,” and a headline of “TOILET IS GOOD TO ‘GO.’” But imagine our surprise when we found that the best write-up of all was in the New York Times. They go through the experience of using the toilet in detail, in a style that can only be described as architectural-review-meets-anthropological-study:
There are two architectural flourishes, both on the roof: a small pyramid of glass, like a little model of the Louvre, and an anachronistic metal stovepipe, reminiscent of a cozy shanty or an old outhouse with a crescent moon carved into the door…
Sadly, these little surprises are forgotten with the first look at the toilet itself, an imposing, metal, cold-looking receptacle in the corner. There is no little stall around it, and so it looks exposed, like the facilities available in many prisons. It, too, is quite damp, for perfectly good reasons explained later, but the image first evokes a dungeon or a scene from one of the Saw pictures.
Doing the Butt
You may or may not have caught the controversy we like to call Butts Over Broadway. See, an ad campaign was planned for Toto Washlet, a Japanese-made toilet that, essentially, does the wiping for you, and it included a Broadway billboard showing big, happy, and presumably clean and paper-free butts. Thing is, the billboard was to go on a building that houses a church, and the church’s minister successfully sought a restraining ordering preventing the ad from going up. But there’s one thing being ignored in all this: Never mind the ongoing battles of church and butt; what’s a Washlet like? Fortunately, New York is here for you. Stephen Milioti reviewed the Washlet for the mag back in December. His poster-worthy verdict? “The Washlet will make you forget toilet paper forever!” There’s much more explanation in the piece.
Open Water [NYM]
In Billboard for Bidet, Church Sees Times Square’s Seedy Past [NYT]
We’re Losing the Portable-Toilet Naming Contest
New Yorkers are always trying to be cleverer-than-thou, even when it comes to naming their portable toilets. The city is awash in portalets from companies called “A Royal Flush” and “Call-A-Head.” But we’ve got nothing on the rest of the country. We consulted The Blue Book of Building and Construction to find the top twenty unfortunately named portable-toilet companies from near and far:
20. Happy Can Portable Toilets, Atlanta
19. Drop Zone Portable Service Inc., Frankfort, Ill.
18. Blackmas Best Seat In The House Inc., Bradley, Ill.
17. Plop Jon Inc., Port Saint Lucie, Fla.
16. A.S.A.P. Port-A-Pots Inc., Hampstead, Md.
15. Ameri-Can Engineering, Argos, Ind.
14. Bobby’s Pottys, Joppa, Md.
13. Johnny On The Spot Inc., Old Bridge, N.J.
12. LepreCAN Portable Restrooms, Chicago
11. Loader-Up, Inc., Sarasota, Fla.
10. Mister Bob’s Portable Toilets, Vero Beach, Fla.
9. Royal Throne, Washington, D.C.
8. Tanks Alot, Tomball, Tex.
7. Tee Pee Inc, Roseville, Mich.
6. Wizards of Ooze Ltd., Anacortes, Wash.
5. Oui Oui Enterprises Ltd., Chicago
4. Gotta Go Potties, Tobyhanna, Pa.
3. UrinBiz.com, Chicago
2. Willy Make It?, Oregon City, Oreg.
1. Doodie Calls, New Orleans
— Andrew Adam Newman