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Saturday, July 29, 2006

To boldly go where no man has gone before ...

Here's one other interesting thing I've seen over here in New Zealand. When I got to Picton, I had some time to kill before they were boarding the ferry, so I parked in town and walked around. Each town here is set up the same way, with a 'Town Centre' where there's always parking on the street, lots of shops and cafes, and always a public toilet. And these public toilets must be a source of pride for the Kiwis, for they're the best I've seen anywhere. OK, OK, not to wax poetic about a silly little thing like a bathroom, but it really is pretty unique.

First of all, you push a button and if the bathroom isn't occupado, a door slides open and lets you in. Once inside, you push another button, and then - and I am not making this up - the door actually makes the 'door-shutting sound' from the original Star Trek as it slides shut. A friendly disembodied voice then welcomes you to the toilet and tells you that you have ten minutes before the 'session' ends and the doors will automatically open. Yikes! I only needed a minute or so anyways, but I can just imagine the surprise of someone not heeding that warning, only to have the doors suddenly slide open, exposing them to the public strolling by as they sit on the throne.

Anyways, then a muzak version of Burt Bacharach's "What The World Needs Now Is Love" comes over the loudspeaker, making for a very pleasant experience. Everything in there's automated, so there's no touching of handles for the germaphobics, although you do have to push that green button again to be let out of the toilet. I suppose if you were particuarly afraid of germs, you could just stand there and wait for the 10 minutes to be up. Maybe then you could at least see what song comes on next.

But once I pushed the button to get back out, the music stopped, and the voice came back on again and thanked me for using the public facilities.

If you're looking for the hallmark of civilized society, I suppose nothing serves better than a talking public toilet with a sense of humor!


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