Toilets I Have Known (on a scale of one to ten)

9 Mar
The Trainspotting Toilet - about a three.

The Trainspotting toilet – about a three.

I have a rather idiosyncratic approach to toilets – so much so that a friend suggested I share it on my blog. I’m not referring to the way I use toilets, which is entirely normal. (Athough really, in the privacy of the cubicle, who knows what is normal?) No, I’m referring to the fact that I award them a score on a ten point scale.

This is just public toilets, I should probably say. I’m not going into people’s houses, wrinkling my nose and saying, “No better than a six,” like some contestant on a lavatorial version of come dine with me. However, when using a toilet in a public place for the first time you might well find me doing that.

This started as a coping mechanism in Albania. In the less developed parts of the world you are far more likely to find toilets that I would consider to be on the lower end of the scale, and using them can be quite a trying experience. To help, I would assign them scores, which is not only a distraction in itself, but also reminds you that it could be worse.

So what are the criteria for scoring well on the WC scale? It’s partly subjective, but here are some of the basic elements that score a toilet points: a door that shuts; a lock on the door; a light source; the ability to flush; toilet paper, and somewhere to dispose of it; water to wash your hands, preferably running; soap; a method of drying your hands; a hook (see my post on disabled toilets); a mirror; an inoffensive smell. Extra marks can be gained for having such luxuries as hand cream, aesthetically pleasing decor and floor-to-ceiling cubicle doors.

Some of these seem pretty essential, do I hear you say? You’d never find a toilet without them? Oh yes you would, and I have seen facilities missing all of these things, though usually not all in the same toilet.

So let’s examine both ends of the scale. Although in Britain you wouldn’t expect to find less than a 6 at worst, it takes something special to reach the perfect 10. Toilets in art galleries and beauty salons often score 9s or 10s, as do posh restaurants and hotels, but possibly the nicest I have ever seen is in The Blythswood Hotel in Glasgow. I may not like their attitude to ordinary working folk, but I can’t fault their toilets: a haven of peaceful salubriousness, with restful lighting, lovely fittings, and tiny single use hand towels that you throw in a basket afterwards. Bliss – definitely a ten.

What about the other end of the scale? What kind of a toilet scores just one? Are you thinking of the filthy loo in Trainspotting? No, that’s about a 3. Disgusting as it was, it had a door (that locked, I think) and sinks to wash your hands. The toilet in Slumdog Millionaire, then? Again, no. It had a door and someone to guard it. I think there may even have been paper. It would score at least 2. So is it possible to score only 1? Yes. I have seen the worst toilet in the world (I believe). It was in Albania, I think in Erseke though it may have been Leskovik. It was a hole in a concrete floor above a river. The room had three concrete walls; the fourth side was entirely open to the road, from where I observed it. I did not use it. That’s how you get a 1. So the next time the loo roll has run out or the hook is broken, think of Erseke, and be grateful.

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