For this episode of Sound Effect, we're talking toilets — how these things we'd just as soon ignore actually have profound effects on our lives. We meet an author who is, among other things, teaching women how to pee in the woods without peeing on themselves. A Seattle man explains how he uses portable toilets to connect with his homeless neighbors. We hear what Seattle can learn from San Francisco’s approach to cleaner and safer public toilets. We talk with the Snopes.com founder about abundant toilet myths and their possible origins. And we try to settle a debate between writers at The Stranger: seat up or seat down?
GOING IN THE WOODS
In 1989, Kathleen Meyer published a book called "How to Shit in the Woods."
For a book whose name can't be said on the radio, it has done very well. It’s now in its third edition, with 2.5 million copies sold. Meyer says it has been found on a coffee table in a nunnery, at a bed and breakfast in Scotland, and in the library at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
In this interview, Meyer offers a few tips on how to relieve oneself when a toilet is far away — including her method for peeing in the woods without splattering her feet.
Mark Lloyd pops his trunk and pulls out his supplies: kitty litter, a small military surplus tent, toilet paper, sanitizer and a 5-gallon plastic bucket, complete with toilet seat. This is the rudimentary toilet set-up that he has been assembling and delivering to homeless encampments for about three years now. He guesses he’s given away between 75 and 100.
“It's something people need, and I can fill it,” he says. “You really can only do good when you provide people a more sanitary situation than they were.”
Learn more about his effort, and how it’s helping him connect with his homeless neighbors.
SAFER PUBLIC TOILETS
Seattle, like many other cities, commonly deals with people going to the bathroom in public spaces. If you are someone who does not have access to shelter, finding a safe place to go to the bathroom in Seattle is especially difficult.
In fact, work by the Seattle Auditor’s Office revealed there are only six publicly funded bathrooms available for use 24/7. And of the bathrooms available, few were usable. Now, the city is looking to San Francisco for answers. There, officials are investing $5 million a year to maintain public toilets, aiming to keep them clean and safe.
In this story, Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer talks with Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for San Francisco Public Works, about her city’s program and what Seattle can learn from it.
No, Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the modern flushing toilet. Airplanes don’t directly dump “blue ice” and human waste from 30,000 feet. And alligators can’t thrive in a New York City sewer.
These are some of the abundant toilet myths that have circulated across the internet and beyond.
All that said, some of the stories originated from a kernel of truth. David Mikkelson, founder of Snopes.com, talks with Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer about the many myths he’s helped bust, as well as the possible origins of these seemingly far-fetched stories.
SEAT UP OR DOWN?
It all started with a raised toilet seat in The Stranger's editorial department bathroom.
"To those of you in the office who don't have any women in your personal lives I'm sorry to inform you that you have women in your professional lives," Nathalie Graham, a staff writer for the alternative-weekly newspaper, wrote one Friday afternoon. "Please put the seat down after you tinkle."
Apparently, bathroom etiquette has been a point of contention at the paper for some time. Staff writers Lester Black and Katie Herzog squared off over the issue through a dueling pair of essays on the paper's website and talked with Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer, who tried to broker some truce.