Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Toilet Seat Lore

Well, it looks like I’m cranking these things out somewhat less often than I’d like to, but echoing the immortal words of John Cusack explaining to his prof why he was late to class in The Sure Thing (1985): “Well you see there was this problem and I’m late because of it.”

The problem is that a few weeks ago we woke up one morning and decided to adopt a seven year old border collie named Mickey. Everything you read about border collies says they need to have a job, so Mickey’s job is to play fetch 23 hours a day and look at me reproachfully the rest of the time.

So between Mickey and the treadmill, there’s not a lot of spare time these days. Plus, I didn’t have anything worth writing about until last week when we had visitors from head office, aka The Mothership. For the sake of argument, I’ll call one of the visitors Lisa Kearns (not her real name). “Lisa” was relaying to one of the people I share an office with what a great stay she had had in the Hotel Elan (otherwise known as the Hotel Elan), “a unique, business-friendly boutique hotel in Calgary, located uptown just off vibrant 17th Avenue SW.”

hotel-elanI wasn’t sure what a boutique hotel is so I Googled it.

A boutique hotel is “a small stylish hotel, typically situated in a fashionable urban location.” I read a few more entries and found a pearl of wisdom from Kobrun Vidisdottir, of Reykjavík, Iceland.

According to her, a boutique hotel is “an accommodation that makes their guests feel happy and contented while staying there, makes them feel extraordinary, makes them to realize that they should revert soon and makes them to recognize that this hotel is worth discussing with others.”

I followed most of what Kobrun was trying to say, but I got stuck at the part where she started talking about reverting. Reverting to what? Her maiden name? Windows 7? Human form? Then I figured out she meant return soon. Which reminds me, I should return to the theme of this column, which is supposed to be about toilets. But remind me to tell you a little bit more about Reykjavík in a minute.

Anyway, “Lisa” was going on about the heated and lighted toilet seat in her hotel room, which in her words “changed my life.” I asked her if her life routinely involved sitting on ice-cold toilet seats and she said no, the heated seat was just a particularly pleasant experience. Plus the underside of the seat was ringed with LEDs, which emitted a pleasing blue light.

Now this is important because everyone knows that if you wake up in the middle of the night and turn on a yellow or orange light, it will immediately shut down your melatonin. Everyone  also knows that the last thing you want to do is sit on an ice-cold toilet seat and shut down your melatonin when all you really want to do is take a pee and go back to sleep. But I guess it’s this kind of thing that separates a normal hotel from a boutique hotel. It’s still sort of surreal though, like going to the bathroom in 2176 AD.

Speaking of going to the bathroom in 2176 AD, Calgary happens to have a few choice, futuristic, public washrooms strategically located about the city. I had the chance to use one a few years ago, but to refresh my memory about the entire experience, I paid a visit to one near my house, at the Tuscany LRT station. (My house is not at the Tuscany LRT station; the futuristic public washroom is at the Tuscany LRT station.)


For starters, it’s pretty futuristic-looking. You approach the door, push a button, the door slides open and you find yourself in a little room with a lot of stainless steel including a stainless-steel toilet, with no toilet seat.


You push another button (“Toilet Seat”) which triggers a bunch of disturbing mechanical noises. A panel in the wall slides open and a toilet seat deploys from behind the panel, spraying liquid in the process. (I am not making any of this up.) You half-expect that some robot arms with metallic claws will appear, seize your eyelids and pry them open, like in “A Clockwork Orange.” A mellifluous robotic voice guides you through the whole process, accompanied by a stirring rendition of “The Ride of the Valkryies.” (kidding)

second-buttonYou go to the bathroom, and if you can’t figure out how to flush, there are instructions to help. Once you wash your hands, the toilet seat folds back into its nook, the panel slides back down and you’re good to go. (I thought you went.)


But say you’re still sitting down or just remaining immobile for some reason (shock probably). The mellifluous robotic voice comes back on and tells you that you have about 20 seconds until the cubicle door opens, unless you start moving around soon. If you don’t move around, the voice starts counting down. Seriously.

I actually filmed this whole thing and you can check it out here:

(Futuristic Public Washroom video clip)

My son Ty got quite panicky once, when the mellifluous robotic voice announced the countdown while he was still working on Step 2 or whatever. He leaped up from his perch and began waving his arms madly, until he gained the precious seconds he needed to finish his business.

The whole setup is just so weird that I fully expected to emerge from that washroom to find myself catapulted two or three centuries past 2176 AD and face to face with a Dalek or else “Robot” from Lost in Space. “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”

verdarobbyThere is another high-end toilet (intended for household use although I’m sure a boutique hotel somewhere has one), which automatically deploys a menacing-looking probe from somewhere in the bowels (pun intended) of the toilet bowl. The probe emits a gentle spray of water which you direct with a complicated remote control. But since I can barely use my TV remote, I probably won’t buy one of those washing probe-equipped commodes, even if I could afford one. I’m saving up for a time machine.

Last but not least, if you happen to have to go potty in O’Hare Airport in Chicago, brace yourself. When you’re in the cubicle, you press a button on an apparatus situated on the back of the toilet. You hear mechanical noises and then a protective plastic sleeve shoots out and envelopes the toilet seat. You do what you went in for, then get up and after more mechanical whirring noises, the sleeve disappears into the apparatus behind the toilet seat.

My only question is: what happens to the sleeve you sat on? Do they just toss it, or is it sent back around for the next unsuspecting victim? I know, I probably shouldn’t worry about these things, but I just can’t help it. Call me a Luddite, but I just think things are getting way too complicated here in 2015.

I think I’ll move to Reykjavík. Quoting here from (whatever that is) about the downtown area: “The old city center is atmospheric and relaxed. Many excellent cafes, bars and restaurants are located there and there are also many shops, including stores specializing in traditional souvenirs and stocking a good selection of merchandise, including crafts, replicas of Viking artifacts, ceramics, jewelry, playing cards, books, calendars, sheepskin products – and Iceland’s famous wool products. “

Sounds great. I’m fresh out of Viking artifacts, so I’ll definitely check it out.  But I bet the toilet seats are freezing.


Dave Barry fan and Medical Director at Rocky Mountain Analytical