Tag Archives: Toilets

The Great Chicago Toilet Massacre

Outhouse Final

By Jack Edwards

I don’t know why we humans are so fascinated with toilets. But we are. It’s in our DNA. From the first time a Neanderthal dug a small hole in the ground and presented it with beaming pride to his Neanderthal wife, we have found few items of greater interest. This is especially true of toilets with unusual features. World literature is replete with toilet stories, and I’m about to add another. But first, a couple of toilet related items.

I recently took a road trip and stopped at a rural rest area – a small park featuring a cement block restroom with a pit toilet. It must have been 15 feet from the toilet rim down to “ground zero.” I immediately thought, ‘Wow, and someone who carelessly lets his cell phone slip into the water of a regular toilet thinks he has a problem.’ Imagine trying to fish that out! (Note to self: Consider a start-up company aimed at fishing people’s cell phones from pit toilets. Slap 800 number stickers throughout. Charge a bundle).

I was watching a baseball game last summer and noticed a row of porta-potties lined up next to the field. In large letters across each one was the company’s name: United Toilets. Struck me as a little too corporate. Frank’s Toilets, San-it-tory Toilets, okay. But United? Was this a multinational outhouse conglomerate?

So, back to Chicago, and the great toilet massacre.

I’m cruising from one gate to the next at O’Hare Airport. And as with any public building, it has its pluses and minuses. On one hand, the entire complex has a grand total of one electrical outlet. It’s located on concourse K. The line to use it is longer than the main runway. On the other hand, it has those neat toilets that automatically slide a new plastic toilet seat protector over the seat after each use. Naturally, I had to make time to enjoy this feature.

I slipped into a restroom and found a stall. I briefly admired the slick unit prior to taking position. Then, after completing my assignment, I stood and turned around to see it do its thing. But nothing. Nadda. The electronic eye should have flushed it, but it didn’t. So, not wanting to leave without watching the plastic sleeve slider show, I pushed the little black button.

This is when IT happened. Up rose a swell of water – a tsunami that made the flood that lifted Noah’s Ark look tame. The tide was rapidly rising toward the rim with no sign of stopping, and I was trapped. My luggage was between me and the stall door. As the water edged to the rim, I desperately lifted my suitcase and swung around to escape. I managed to slip through the door just as the wave crested over the edge. Water poured down and flooded the floor in all directions. A man’s voice from the next stall cried out, “Oh my God!” as the tide rushed his feet. (If I had the means to save him, I would have. But, alas, I was without the means. It was every man for himself). Chaos ensued. People everywhere screamed and fled for their lives. I swept past the stunned face of a bathroom attendant (Motto: We run toward the sound of danger). It was like that scene in the first Mission Impossible movie where Tom Cruise breaks the giant fish tank and then runs for it. In fact, exactly like that. I will concede that I probably didn’t look as debonair as Tom did as I turned the corner out of the madness and back onto the concourse.

As my plane lifted off the runway bound for the land of the (far) less interesting toilets, I must admit that those fancy O’Hare contraptions had lost their appeal. I am now actively working to find investors for my enterprise: United Phone Recovery, Inc. – “You sink’em, we spulink’em.”

Don’t You Believe in Time Travel?

Welcome to Your Time Machine

If you don’t believe in time travel, and surprisingly, many people don’t, then you haven’t flown commercially in the last thirty years.  The next time you’re standing at the ticket counter schlepping around for your picture ID and trying to convince the agent that your check-in luggage doesn’t contain a tomahawk missile, look carefully.  That dinosaur of a computer the ticket agent is hammering away at is actually one of Steve Jobs’ original Apple computers, complete with attractive off-gray plastic shell and cathode ray tube.  The agent isn’t typing those bazillion key strokes to find your reservation, she’s killing time waiting for the tube to warm up.   The airlines rely on this cutting edge 1980’s technology in order to achieve the near impossible.  That is, of course, to ensure that thousands of times per day without fail at least fifty percent of all flights are massively overbooked.   No easy task.

Few other industries that rely on a reservation system would dare try to provide this consistent level of service.  Imagine if you will the restaurant industry employing this strategy.  Say you go to Rigatonie’s Italian for a nice spaghetti dinner and are waiting for your table, then the manager steps up to the little hostess podium.  “Attention everyone!” he announces.  “Unfortunately, Rigatonie’s has overbooked its tables this evening.  We are asking for volunteers willing to reschedule their dinners to another sitting.  We have one scheduled five hours from now at 1:00 a.m.  Volunteers will receive one complementary non-seafood appetizer.  We cannot begin seating until we have sufficient volunteers.  Thank you.”  Who else gets away with this?  Nonetheless, God bless ‘em, the airlines manage to achieve their quota, day after day.

The journey back in time continues after boarding.  Fun fact: Thanks to exceptional cooperation between Boeing and Airbus, the same factory in Hoboken, New Jersey, continues to manufacture the same tried and true seatbelts originally designed for the 1957 Chevy Bel Air.  Extra Fun Fact:  Boeing even installed these loyal safeguards of the sky in every Space Shuttle.  Both Boeing and Airbus like to brag that every time a passenger lifts up on one of the seatbelt clips, a union worker in Hoboken earns his wings.

Time to use the onboard lavatory?  The journey continues.  It’s a flying toilet museum.  I am, of course, referring to the peaceful comfort of being able to place a paper seat protector down on the toilet and turn “into position” without the fear of hearing an auto-flush engage and seeing your paper shield flash from sight.  Note to helpful engineers:  Some technology has reached its zenith.  Disengage from pioneering further “advancements.”

Nothing takes us back in time so much, however, as the state-of-the-art scratchy “plug-in sound” quality.  You see, the real joy of having the airline industry lie to us about the danger of low frequency radio waves during flight is that we are able to transport ourselves to a pre-World War II entertainment experience.  It’s Jack Benny on the talkie all over again.

Here’s the nut.  The next time you hear someone mention time travel, don’t mock them and call them a science fiction dweeb.  Time travel is alive and well.  And, unfortunately, if the airlines get their way, we’ll be enjoying this portal to the past for decades to come.  So too our children, and yes, even our children’s children.

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