What If Westerners Had Their Safe Toilets Taken Away?
Here's your latest edition of Toilet Tuesday:
WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITHOUT A TOILET?
As you're no doubt aware, Monday was World Toilet Day, an occasion to ponder how much of the planet is inhospitable to potty breaks. In the weeks leading up to this momentous day, activists from six continents called for better facilities in developing societies to prevent diseases like diarrhea and lung infections. Residents of Portland, Oregon, marveled over an emergency toilet with a twin-bucket urine separator; Singapore threw a Golden Poo Awards, described on Facebook as a "night of humor, dancing, advocacy and support for sanitation solutions for the developing world"; somebody in California staged a Toilet Awareness and Gratitude Meditation, encouraging people to lock themselves in loos and not open the door until a friend or family member "sponsored" them for a $10 "admission."
One of the more memorable Toilet Day tributes came from WaterAid, a London-based group that asserts that one in three women worldwide faces "shame, disease, harassment and even attack" because they don't have safe bathrooms. Trying to get the rest of the world to care about this problem, WaterAid created a short film imagining what it would be like for a middle-class U.K. resident to trek outdoors at night to pee. The answer: Not so pleasant.
A GLASS BATHROOM IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE, IN TEXAS
Is downtown Sulphur Springs America's most cutting-edge public space? Look at this: The town, located to the east of Dallas, just installed a common toilet modeled after Monica Bonivicini's glass crapper, "Don't Miss A Sec," which gathered accolades at 2004's Art Basel. Right next to it is a jumbo-sized chessboard on the sidewalk. People flexing sphincters inside the toilet can gaze out and watch opponents locked in a fierce battle for checkmate, which taken together creates a conceptual super-artwork that I imagine would just blow the critical mind-cogs of Blake Gopnik.
The "glass" is actually two-way mirror, meaning people cannot see into the commode. That doesn't mean it's not awkward, though, as one local user put it to a KLTV reporter: "So it wasn't too bad, but it was strange when you had four men standing out there looking in the door."
THE SIX FLAGS OF TOILETS, IN KOREA
Some say he was born in his grandmother's bathroom. Others assert he was sucked from his mom's womb by a plunger-wielding employee of True Value Hardware. (Not true.) What is certain is that Sim Jae-Duck grew up to be a man very interested in toilets. As the mayor of Suwon, a city about an hour south of Seoul, Sim forged a campaign to improve the public sanitation, staging a Cleanest Public Restroom contest each month reward businesses with stellar bathrooms. "Mayor Toilet," as he became known, ruled over his porcelain empire from a majestic $1.6 million house that, yes, was itself shaped like a colossal toilet.
And now Sim Jae-Duck's below-the-belt universe has been preserved for ever-flushing posterity. Curators of his estate have turned his home into a "Restroom Cultural Park," open to anyone who wants to see sculptures of people in various modes of squat and marvel over the mayor's personal bowl, which has a self-raising lid and mood music. There are paintings about toilets, examples of toilet signage from different countries and even a place to buy toilet-themed souvenirs. Was Sim buried in a toilet? Next time you visit Restroom Cultural Park, be sure to ask!