Here’s Dr. Barry Pascal, joining us again to wrestle with another great, if overlooked, issue of the day. (It appears he was overlooking his shorts; crumpled trousers; shoes; and a small bathmat while composing his thoughts. We can only hope he washed his hands.) You can find Barry‘s humorous works for sale here.—EGF
Just One More Flush!
By BARRY PASCAL, Pharm.D.
Humorist, Satirist, and All-Around Nice Guy
Last year, an on-line news article identified a new societal problem that had not been previously discussed. However, since then we have been consumed with issues of national debt (European and American); Middle East tensions; the price of gasoline, the 2013 US financial cliff; the constant political bickering in Washington, DC; and, of course, the Presidential elections. This new problem, as enticing as it is, was identified by the Gates Foundation as a pressing concern: We Need To Reinvent the Toilet.
The article referred to the toilet as “this unsightly piece of technology, which everyone uses but no one seems to think much about, is in desperate need of an overhaul.” In my opinion, that is simply not true. I think about the toilet several times a day, not to mention a few times at night. Worse yet, if I’m far away from a toilet at certain times, I think about it even more.
The Gates Foundation has launched a $41.5 million “Reinvent The Toilet” campaign. The problem, it seems, is that flush toilets don’t work well without an infrastructure – water, pipes, sewer systems, etc. It is true that the flush toilet has contributed greatly to the health and safety of civilization, but apparently only to about one-third of the world’s current population. This is a warning to all travelers: Plan your trips carefully and watch where you step.
Although Thomas Crapper filed nine toilet-related patents from 1881-1886 he is not the father of the device, which is commonly referred to by his name. Sir John Harington beat him to the seat (so to speak) in his 1596 treatise, A New Discourse upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax, by illustrating a new water closet design. Do you think that Harington invented the toilet seat in 1596 and it was almost 300 years later that little Tommy Crapper added the hole in the middle?
At any rate, Harington peddled his newfangled commode to his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, who had the first one installed in Richmond Palace. It now becomes clear where the terms “Throne” and “Royal Flush” must have originated.
In 1775, a London watchmaker, Alexander Cummings, filed the first flush toilet patent. However, Thomas Crapper became widely associated with the toilet because of his salesmanship rather than his innovation. The British plumber and entrepreneur established sanitation showrooms and cleverly imprinted his memorable last name on his wares. It really was a Crapper.
In 1896, while Crapper was building his legacy, the Scott Paper Company began marketing the first rolls of toilet paper. Uh—oh…we forgot to discuss the other part of the process. I shudder to think how that was handled before 1896 and Scott Paper’s introduction of this necessity.
The Gates Foundation is encouraging new toilet innovation because the current system is too expensive for the developing world, and requires a water and sewer system to work. Scientists want new toilets to recycle the water, reclaim minerals, and reuse waste. Knowing what I know about my toilet, the very thought of this new scientific reclamation project is frightening.
However, I would like to propose a few, badly-needed changes to the current system. I think all gas station toilets should come with cleaning and servicing attendants. When there are bathroom lines at theater intermissions, additional toilets should be rolled out and set up in the lobby. All automatic-flush toilets should wait until you are reasonably finished before they start flushing. Airlines should explain what happens when an airplane toilet is flushed instead of letting everyone think that something is sprinkled over the entire flight path (why else would they warn passengers, ‘Do not flush toilet while on the landing strip’?). And, lastly, why hasn’t anyone invented a pill to keep your leg from going to sleep when you are sitting on the toilet reading the newspaper?
I think you can tell by now that a toilet is not just a simple household device. And I think you can also tell that I spend quite a bit of time thinking about it.
About the Author: Barry Pascal, the former Mayor and former Honorary Sheriff of North San Fernando Valley, owned Northridge Pharmacy for 32 years and is now retired. He has written seven comedy books and pens humorous columns for the California Pharmacists Association Journal as well as the North Valley Community Connection, in which this was published in August of last year. He is currently in “Buffet Therapy” after returning home from a North Atlantic cruise. (Buffet Therapy includes eating as well as toilet timing exercises.)
© Barry Pascal August 2011