Sunday, July 5, 2009

Target Practice

I've been reading up on design theories for toilets/toilet rooms of late, particularly public toilets. And there is a great divide between public toilet design and those we use in our homes. Why is it so rare to see a urinal in a home? Granted not many companies make them, but they are available and one could argue that more would be available if people would install them!

Then there are international variations, most notably: the raging debate between proponents of squat toilets and those that prefer western-style stool models. While I haven't traveled to the squat toilet parts of the world myself, I gather that western styles are edging out the squats in these areas when it comes to new toilet room construction. Great, not only are we exporting death food like McDonald's and Coca-cola, but now we are moving cultures away from an elimination style that strengthens pelvic muscles, eliminates hemorrhoids, etc. etc. in favor of our lazy shitting style.

One piece of these discussions that puzzles me is the widely-held, yet never discussed assumption that men/boys need something to pee on. A target. This is easy enough to explain away when one is pondering indoor and single-user fixtures. People with penises hitting the right spot with their urine stream keeps that world neater. But even in discussions of outdoor urination (such as men's gardens) or massive urinal troughs (where as long as you didn't pee on your shoe you could not miss), there is reference to needing to provide definite targets.

This has reminded me of camping/biking trips with males in which, even in the middle of nowhere where there is no chance of anyone coming up on them, they have sought out something to pee on.

My current thinking is that this is a learned behavior. My boy, when the others at school showed him that he could pee standing up (we had a sit down house), took to taking hands-free, standing pees into the toilet. I think his height allowed him to still get his pee in the bowl relatively easily. But, of course, I've tried to reprogram him so that he does actually take aim and mind his stream a bit more in the confines of home. But why, out there in the wild wild world, why don't those sporting penises just pee away from themselves. I assume they would use hands to avoid peeing on their feet, but then the goal would be just to pee away, not to pee on something...

Does it matter? Probably not too much. I guess I'm just pondering whether target practice connects to ideas of modesty? privacy? security? sport? But then, what design elements would be open to us if men aimed less and women aimed more?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Excuse me, where is the toilet?"

I'm in the process of retraining my brain: from now on, I'm going with "toilets" as my word of choice. Yes, much of this comes from being awash in a sea (a somewhat annoying sea when one is using lots of indices and databases) of changing terminology for public facilities over the course of the 20th century, but it is more than that. First, as I've already gone on about in other posts, I think we should label facilities not by who should use them (if they are truly public facilities) but by their function/equipment, which I think "toilet" represents. Second, it pokes at American's delicate sensibilities about elimination by referring to the space by the fixture into which we eliminate (okay, it works less well for urinal-only users... suggestions?). My thinking is that until we (that would be the collective, societal "we") can get past our studied silence about this topic (the fact that people need to pee, poop, change tampons, etc), we aren't going to do a better job about providing truly public facilities for the public good. So, from now on, when I "need to excuse myself" (as my mother taught me to say), I'm going to ask for the toilet.

Old words/phrases to do away with:
comfort stations
"men"/"women" (or the many equivalents)
water closet or WC
convenience stations
T(ea) room