On Bathroom Matters – and Splatters
I’m indebted to Kathryn Skelton of the Lewiston Sun Journal for breaking the news that Maine has the cleanest hospital bathrooms in the country. According to Skelton’s Jan. 2 story, Kaiser Health News somehow determined that this state, Vermont and South Dakota were tied for the peak position among pissoirs in medical institutions. In all three states, seventy-nine percent of those facilities were rated consistently tidy.
Apparently, no men use hospital restrooms.
Just kidding, as you’ll shortly see.
My interest in the subject of carefully disinfected toilets is more than academic. It’s both personal (I regularly use bathrooms) and professional. Allow me to establish my credentials as perhaps the state’s foremost journalistic authority on rest-room cleanliness.
Back in the early 1990s, playwright and author Elizabeth Peavey (if you haven’t seen her one-woman show “My Mother’s Clothes Are Not My Mother,” you are culturally deprived, morally suspect and amino-acid deficient) and I were assigned to do a story for the now-defunct Casco Bay Weekly to find the dirtiest bar bathrooms in Portland. We took this task seriously – well, after the first night, during which we spent our entire expense account on beers at only three places. We traveled from one end of the city to the other, visiting dives, honky-tonks, cocktail lounges, clubs, saloons, watering holes, blind pigs and pubs of all descriptions.
At one long-since-shuttered joint on lower Congress Street, the men’s room had two urinals. Both were disconnected from the plumbing. One was dry. The pipe to the other was spewing water on the floor. The door to the single stall had been ripped off its hinges and was floating in the pool caused by the overflow. The stall itself hadn’t been cleaned since the Watergate break in. The toilet paper roll was marinating in a puddle by the sink, which was clogged with paper towels and what look like the remains of someone’s partial upper plate.
And that wasn’t even the winner (which was a dance club on Forest Avenue – no longer in existence – with bathrooms that can’t be described without using words like “used condoms,” “bloody tampons,” and “shit” that are forbidden on this Website).
So, when it comes to the cleanliness of the facilities, I’m an experienced judge.
Which brings me in a roundabout way to one of the great conundrums of our time:
Why don’t home bathrooms have urinals?
As Florida author Tim Dorsey pointed out in his recent novel, When Elves Attack,” this omission leads to one of the main causes of marital discord.
“Men were built for urinals, not toilets,” one of Dorsey’s male characters explained. “But homes only have toilets. Even the most careful guy can’t prevent a certain amount of sprinkle and ambient mist, not to mention a little splashing from the bowl if your stream’s strong enough.”
Another man chimed in: “Women don’t realize we really are trying as hard as we can, but it’s a curse. They think we’re not aiming at all.”
Hospital restrooms have all sorts of special equipment to deal with every medical contingency that might make it tricky for a man to empty his bladder. As a result, male patients hit their intended targets almost four out of five times, resulting in unmarred porcelain and national recognition. If Maine bars handed out catheters like they disperse salty happy hour hors d’oeuvres, their success rate would undoubtedly be similar to that of hospitals. And if you called the plumber today and ordered nice urinals installed in all your bathrooms, you’d find your abode would be more hygienic and your marriage (or domestic partnership or casual relationship or one-night stand) would be less stressful.
By the way, Skelton’s story about Maine having the cleanest hospital bathrooms also noted that the state came in dead last in another category: number of helipads. There are only twelve here. Texas, the top state for helicopter landing spots, has four hundred and fifty. I expect Gov. Paul LePage and the newly returned Legislature will put off battles over environmental issues and labor disputes to approve a stimulus program for helipad construction. Maine doesn’t have to be number one in this category, but we should at least strive for the national average, so we won’t be sneered at by visiting Texans.
Wait! According to the website Statemaster.com, if you factor in not only helipads, but also airports, STOLports (whatever those are) and seaplane bases, Maine is actually thirteenth in the nation in facilities per capita.
In your face, Texas.
This just in: STOLport is the term used for short take-off or landing airports, in other words, a small field where aviators with a death wish can terrify themselves and their neighbors.
This is not to be confused with a STOLIport, which is a bar that serves vodka. And probably has a filthy restroom.
In other news of the week, Maine will soon be represented on a new quarter. As part of the U.S. Mint’s new series “America’s Cleanest Bathrooms,” a toilet from Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor will be enshrined on a shiny new twenty-five cent piece.
Er, sorry. That last part seems to be wishful thinking on my part. The Maine icon that will actually show up on a quarter sometime next summer is the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, which was selected because it’s a scenic spot with spotless urinals. It’s part of the “America the Beautiful Quarters Program,” which features lovely landscapes where you can let your feelings (and whatever else is required) flow. Be sure to collect the whole set.
Wash your hands first. Even if the facilities are spotless, there’s nothing like money for transmitting germs.
Al Diamon has relieved himself. Of this week’s responsibility for writing this posting. What did you think I meant? If you could get your mind out of the gutter-style urinal like they used to have at Fenway Park, I’d remind you that emails to Al are always welcome at email@example.com. Yes, that is too a real address.