Golden Thrones

Every now and then the local news sneaks in a headline to showcase our local taxes and fees at work. A swanky new visitor center is about to open on the top of nearby Pikes Peak (14,115′) at a cost of $66M. A 250-ft. pedestrian bridge ($18.7M) spans gracefully over downtown railroad tracks, connecting a public park to our new U.S. Olympic museum complex. Increased traffic between Colorado Springs and Denver demands eighteen miles of a new interstate toll lane ($350M).

Colorado Springs must be “flush” with tax dollars

These efforts make sense and I’m happy to write the check, especially with the potential for revenue in return. But another project almost escaped my news feed and Mr. Mayor, I respectfully request a refund. We now have a fully-accessible fully-automated self-cleaning public toilet in a small park on the west side of town. Cost: $415,000.  That’s a lot of loot for a little lavatory, no?

On the surface our golden throne sounds good enough to try out.  It’s a touchless experience once you “ring the doorbell”.  The restroom door opens/closes automatically with a sanitary-sounding hiss.  Circulating air and classical music provide the white noise you need to mask unpleasant sounds.  A bathroom “host” politely pipes in over the loudspeaker to let you know you have ten minutes to do your thing.  After that – reason in itself to just go and watch from a distance – all doors open whether or not you’re buttoned up.  Talk about getting caught with your pants down.

Our city’s posh powder room comes from Exeloo (great name), an Australian company expanding its footprint into North America.  Besides the fancy features mentioned above Exeloo toilets are self-cleaning, which means they spray down and disinfect their surfaces from wall-mounted nozzles every thirty uses or so.  Makes me think the kitchens of Chinese restaurants could use the same treatment.

The (cheaper) Exeloo “Saturn”

Learning more about Exeloo didn’t make me feel better about my tax dollars.  That’s because our city purchased the fanciest model on the website.  Exeloo offers six different “loos”, with names like Jupiter, Saturn, and Orbit.  (Why – because going to the bathroom should be an out-of-this-world experience?)  Our city chose the model simply named “Fully Accessible”.  It looks at least twice as big as any of the others.

Let me contrast our wet-n-wild washroom with a more modest facility.  Just off the coast at Torrey Pines in North San Diego County you’ll find a nondescript public restroom sandwiched between the beach and the parking lot.  It has no doors.  It has no music.  It’s made entirely of cinderblocks and concrete.  A flush requires an “old-fashioned” pull of the handle, emitting just enough water to clear the bowl.  The sinks offer just a trickle of water to rinse your hands.  The mirrors aren’t mirrors at all, but big polished metal panels with just enough of a reflection.  This restroom is bombproof.

Which brings me to my point.  Why does my town need a bathroom good enough for a visit from Queen Elizabeth when cinderblock and concrete will do just as well?  The Torrey Pines toilet probably cost $4,000, not $400,000.  The next headline I’ll be reading is how a homeless person took up residence in our well-to-do water closet and now our tax dollars have to fund a full-time attendant as well.

The first time I experienced a first-class public flush was in Boston Common.  Smack dab in the middle of the grass expanse and softball diamonds we found a restroom similar to an Exeloo, only more like a double-wide RV.  It was a welcome sight after hours exploring the city on foot.  An attendant sat quietly on a nearby park bench, keeping an eye on things.  And the cherry on top of this sanitation sundae: the facility was sponsored by a non-profit called Friends of the Public Garden.  Not a tax dollar to be spent.

Could’ve had this whole house for less than our Exeloo, Mr. Mayor

Since we can’t go out to dinner or see a concert or even go to church this Christmas, I think I’ll take the family to see our sparkling Exeloo public restroom instead.  Maybe they’ve scented the circulating air to smell like Christmas cookies or pine trees.  Maybe they’ve switched out the classical music for holiday favorites.  Hopefully they’ve dressed up the attendant to look like Santa.  It’s the least they can do for my tax dollars.

Some content sourced from the 11/6/2020 Springs Magazine article, “At Least We Have a $300K Bathroom”.

Whistle Work

Last weekend my wife and I drove north a couple hours to visit our granddaughters.  The last time we saw them was in the pre-pandemic days of yesteryear.  We spent most of Saturday afternoon in the backyard playing little-kid games in the makeshift pool and breaking out a plastic Tee-Ball set.  Later on after a barbeque, it was time to clean up the toys.  My son and his wife promptly requested the “The Clean Up Song” from Alexa, and my granddaughter hopped to it.  Watching her I caught myself thinking, can’t I help with the clean up too?

Google The Clean Up Song and you’ll find several dozen versions to choose from.  Cleaning-to-music for kids has been around a little while now.  I wish we’d used this approach more often when our own children were little.  It’s a song!  It’s a game!  It’s almost whistling while you work.

For me, household chores morphed to something more therapeutic as the kids grew up and out of the house.  Taking out the trash became extra steps towards my ten thousand (we have a long driveway).  Washing dishes became a mini-spa of warm water and soap bubbles.  Making the bed and arranging its pillows channeled my inner Marie Kondo.  Folding clothes was how to avoid lazing on the couch while watching TV.  (On that note, an ironing board should be called a “clothes-folding board”, if you go by my folding minutes (100%) vs. ironing minutes (0%).

Lest you think me compulsive, a recent Wall Street Journal study comes to my rescue.  During these stay-at-home times – locked-down residents find similar stress relief in housework.  Washing windows allows the slow, deliberate wax-on-wax-off zen of “The Karate Kid”.  Cleaning countertops tempts flowing dance, like Julia Stiles in the diner in “The Prince and Me”.  Ironing doubles as light weightlifting. And vacuuming?  Nah, I got nothing there.  Vacuuming’s still just a chore.

The lovely Ms. Stiles and her diner dance

Headspace

Headspace, a software company focused on meditation and better sleep, includes housecleaning exercises on its app.  They recommend “quiet housework in dim lighting” just before bed (but then how do you see what you’re cleaning?) They want you to sweep the floor and wipe the counter in smooth, restorative motions.  Laugh all you want but the use of their “cleaning-related content” is up 20% since mid-March.

Household products are trending the same way.  Swiffer wants you to mop with “a clean home and a clear mind” and suggests a facial treatment while you’re at it.  They switch “clean the counter” to “give your surfaces a little TLC” (as if your surfaces are close friends).  Proctor & Gamble fortifies its “Gain” laundry detergent with essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus, touted for their calming effects. “Clear Your Mind with a Cooling Clean!  A Soothing Scent with a Mindful Twist!”

Call me one-in-five (not compulsive) because P&G research claims 20% of us clean to relax or reduce stress.  Sure, but we also clean to clean.

I never thought about laundry this way but the Journal article likens clothes-cleaning to problem-solving (which we guys are all about).  Sort the clothes, dose the detergent/softener, fold according to best-fit in drawers, and then put everything away.  It’s a process, and it’s a new puzzle every time.

To take it one step more spiritual, household chores are considered seva – a form of selfless-service.  Says one yogi about dirty dishes, “You’re reminding yourself you’re washing for the divine grace that flows through your husband, your wife, your children, or your parents.”  Whoa now.  Me, I’m just washing dishes.

I’ve neglected to mention another household chore: cleaning bathrooms.  It can be “healing” sponging the porcelain to a sparkling-white shine, conducting the bowl brush in large, lazy circles, or returning to nature in the gentle flow of the sink (waterfall) or toilet (whirlpool).  No, no, NO.  I don’t do bathrooms.  Not even if you ask Alexa to play “The Clean Up Song”.

Some content sourced from the 5/27/2020 Wall Street Journal article, “Sick of Cleaning?  Turn It Into Meditation”.

Bathroom Sync

During our town’s annual “Parade of (new) Homes” last summer, my wife and I came across a master bathroom with two showerheads in the same space. The fixtures were mounted on a single wall, almost beckoning the future owners to a side-by-side shower date. Several other couples gave pause alongside us. Shower at the same time? Nope.  We’re not among the 77% who love the idea. On the other hand, my wife and I would never give up our side-by-side sinks.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “My Biggest Remodeling Regret…”, the author bemoans the lost space consumed by her dual master bathroom sinks.  She says, in hindsight, she would’ve exchanged the space of one sink for a linen closet.  Remarkably, in the seven years since the remodel, she claims she and her husband never used their side-by-side sinks simultaneously.  In a nutshell, she’d prefer to spend her bathroom time alone.

We’re in the midst of a remodel ourselves, which displaces my wife and I to the upstairs for several months.  As a result, we’re sharing a bathroom with one small sink.  It doesn’t work very well for us.  Why?  Because we like our own sink real estate.  We like the freedom of our respective bathroom routines whether or not we’re both in there.

Too “cozy”!

Bathroom habits speak to our individuality, don’t they?  What works for my wife, what works for me, and what works for our juxtaposition may be a far cry from your own preference.  Consider this scenario: would it bother you if your connecting bathroom were open to your bedroom (that is, no door)?  I’ve seen several layouts where the bathroom counter is the first thing you see when you prop yourself up in bed.  Ugh.  Our bathroom demands a door.  Having said that, I have no problem barging through said door, even if my wife is in the middle of getting ready.  Why?  Because a) we’re comfortable sharing our bathroom routines, and b) the toilet has its own little room; a “water closet” with a door.

But why side-by-side sinks specifically?  Because we often get ready for the day (or the night) at the same time.  Sure, we’re pretty good about weaving and bobbing around each other with a single sink (like we’re doing right now), but I much prefer grooming in my own space.  Then there’s the chatter.  We routinely ask each other’s mirrored reflections “how does your day look?” or “how does tomorrow look?” while we’re in bathroom sync.  We’ve done this for so long I can even understand my wife’s responses through her teeth-brushing.

The Journal article spends several paragraphs lauding the opportunity for privacy in the bathroom – not because habits are embarrassing, but because the bathroom can be a therapeutic escape from the chaos beyond its doors.  The bathroom is cozy-small.  The bathroom is typically simple and without clutter.  The Journal suggests magazines or iPad time or even singing (singing?) to promote rejuvenation.  I’m not here to dispute the notion.  I’m simply saying the bathroom’s not where I’d choose to rediscover my mojo.  Pretty sure my wife feels the same way, else I’d lose my barge-through-the-door privileges.

I’ll concede one point to the Journal.   The author brings up (and promptly tears down) another recent side-by-side trend: toilets.  Really?  “Going” at the same time?  Then again, I see more and more men un-self-consciously on their phones while “taking care of business” in public restrooms.  Maybe they’d be okay with a bowl-by-bowl conversation.  Seriously, how would you feel about receiving a call from a public restroom?  I’d reach for the hand sanitizer. I’d also demand the caller focus instead on his/her business and call back later.  Much later.