I am obsessed with toilets.
Whenever I travel to a new country, I look forward to seeing the new innovations that have been introduced to the public toilets.
I’ve seen luxury bathroom lounges in Dubai, technological wonders in the US and nature themed creations in Malaysia. I was so excited when Dyson’s 10-second hand dryer was introduced to public toilets. I gleefully tried one.
I’m interested for 2 reasons. Firstly, they’ve always been a haven – the one place in the world where I can be completely alone and take refuge from the world. Sometimes I go to the toilet during meetings just to catch a breath.
Secondly, toilets provide insight into whether a Government cares for its people.
You see, toilets are not really an essential service. They are a nice-to-have. But when you see well maintained public facilities, they tell you a lot. They indicate that Government has done the basics and is now concentrating on beautifying value-adds. After all, you can’t have great public toilets without running water in the first place or the expertise & attention-to-detail required to maintain them. Public toilets connote a Government cares about the little things – convenience, health, dignity and quality of life. In many countries, toilets double as baby changing stations, so properly outfitted toilets show thoughtfulness and respect for motherhood. The attitude of the people who clean public toilets also provides insight into the nation’s work ethic.
I am equally fascinated by dead bodies.
I study how Governments treat their dead, especially the anonymous dead and deceased members of the armed forces. It communicates the premium Government places on life. Are people largely expendable? Does Government care about the distress and anguish families feel over their lost ones? Does the nation mourn the loss of its soldiers’ contributions? Does it accord dignity and honour to the sacrifices of men-at-arms? Are missing persons reports filed by the Police, and cases investigated in the hope that families may one day find closure?
We may think these things don’t matter but toilets and the dead are my two key measures of the quality of life in a nation and the premium Government places on its citizens.