Need the toilet? Wanna watch a video ad about erectile dysfunction?

Please now wash your hands

Surprised man photo via Shutterstock

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I'm off to the toilet. Would you like to join me?

Sorry, that's a silly question. Of course you won't join me – I'm a bloke.

Young women often go to the washroom in pairs but dudes generally don't, at least not for the purposes that the washroom was originally designed. And if you are a woman, or non-specific gender, I can hardly imagine you'd want to join me on a jaunt to the Gents under any circumstances.

So why have I invited you? No, I am not scatologically fixated. It's just that I am fascinated by other people's offices – and their bogs.

My itinerant work life takes me from one client premises to the next, so I have become accustomed to dealing with the unexpected while on the hoof. Everything I need is in my backpack, and I don't just mean multiple power cables, battery rechargers and every video adapter known to humankind: I also carry antibacterial hand gel and tissues.

Assigned to a number of creative tech training centres, I always put myself forward when they're looking for volunteers to deliver on-site courses. Fellow trainers hate them: it means getting up earlier, travelling for a longer time on an unfamiliar route and getting home later, for no extra money.

Me? I love it. The sheer variety of unexpected stuff encountered at different client premises appeals to my chosen freelance lifestyle. I like to meet new people and they are always lovely – something I never quite understand since when you work at the same place day after day, you quickly learn that you hate everybody else.

Sure, there are practical advantages in working at a permanent location but any chance I get, I like to get away from "home".

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Why? Because when you step out of your comfort zone, you experience all manner of nutso things in other people's offices from the safe point of view of an outsider. It can be a lot of fun.

I find amusement in turning up somewhere to find half of my appointed trainees have either forgotten I was due that day or were never told they'd been booked on to a training course at all.

I derive devious pleasure from the inevitable process of setting up in a boardroom for which absolutely no one, least of all IT support, knows how the extensive and very expensive-looking integrated AV equipment works.

I get a kick out of the multitudinous batshit-crazy systems employed by security reception desks for signing me in and out (and shake it all about) every time I want to pass through a door.

I thrill at getting lost down miles of unfamiliar identical windowless magnolia-painted corridors as I make my way about, fantasising that I am evading 1970s Daleks in a Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who.

And let me say this: you can learn a lot about an organisation and its staff by the toilets.

Whether it's a pokey single-cubicle provision for 200 people – a bit like a Starbucks, I suppose – or a palatial marble-clad Temple to Terda, the Goddess of Shitting, the discovery of yet another new washroom gives me great satisfaction.

And relief, of course. Especially when I arrive in the morning.

One recent experience lingers in the mind for the washroom's generously appointed details. It was at a large but funky advertising agency and I had expected a mid-level hipster vibe to the first comfort break of the day. A bit of raw brick and unfinished wood, perhaps.

How wrong I was. It was like stepping into the VIP bathroom at an exclusive Beverly Hills nightclub.

There was subtle and varied mood lighting, enhanced by the aroma of scented candles and gentle New Age whale-song playing in the background. The toilet seats were warm and cushioned. Astonishingly, there were no little pieces of torn toilet paper on the floor whatsoever. The toilet paper itself was thick and embossed with might have been some sort of coat of arms (although it's difficult to tell by candlelight).

At the washbasin, not only had they not run out of soap, it was still being issued from the originally installed wall dispensers. In every other office I have ever visited, the wall dispensers are inoperative, leaving you to force the last three bubbles from an ancient and dirty plastic bottle pump branded with a label marked Poundland Special Deal.

I was also presented with a choice – a choice! – of post-wash moisturising hand lotions. I half expected to turn round and be greeted by an attendant brandishing aftershave.

There were latrines against the wall so I knew I hadn't stumbled into the Ladies by mistake. It was fantastic.

Even the paper towels for drying my hands were posh. They were a kind of a fuzzy fabric, making me question whether I should toss it in the bin with the others or take it home and put it in the washing machine for reuse.

For all my experiences, one thing I have noticed about office washrooms is the increasing proliferation of signage in recent years. I guess when I was younger, people instinctively knew where to point their percy and hover their arses. Modern office workers, however, apparently require written instructions.

Judging by the spelling mistakes, these makeshift, wipe-clean signs are clearly produced at speed by a busy receptionist or office temp let loose with an encapsulator. They are fixed all over the walls at jaunty angles using Blu-Tack or sticky tape.

Don't piss on the wall, they inform you. Don't shit on the floor. Wash your hands after pissing or shitting. Don't use the broken soap dispenser. Hot water is hot. Don't use the broken hand dryer. Put rubbish in the bin. Don't put your knob in a cheese grater. Breathe in. Breathe out. Don't run with scissors.

And so on.

Now I read that automatic hand dryers are about to get a video makeover. According to Savortex founder Syed Ahmed, washrooms will soon be er... disrupted by his company's EcoCurve adDryers. These have integrated video screens that play adverts in your face as you wring out those soggy digits.

Savortex EcoCurve adDryer

It's bad enough having to stare at the same old poster ads for travel cases, incontinence pants and erectile dysfunction while you have a slash. Now I'm going to be forced to watch a video of all three while drying off.

I can see the appeal for buildings managers, who will want (it says here) "to transform wasteful and costly commercial washrooms into connected, hygienic and sustainable revenue-producing assets".

These managers will no doubt get a thrill poring over the analytics, as the devices are IoT connected too, recording footfall and channelling ad revenue every time I inadvertently watch someone demonstrating their wedding tackle problem.

It's enough to make me want to wash my hands a second time.

And what next? Video screens built into the toilet paper dispensers? A talking head at the bottom of the bowl selling you haemorrhoid cream?

Enough with the ads and signage. Excretion is not "wasteful and costly": it is a natural animal function. I don't expect companies to celebrate it but for god's sake, stop taxing it.

There's one aspect of the EcoCurve I can handle, however: its name derives from its curved air drying technology. That shows admirable attention to detail.

After all, where better than a washroom to find Backstreet Luv?

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Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He once considered writing an anonymous blog about public and office toilets he has enjoyed or suffered. The idea came to him after his mum suggested writing an equivalent to the Rough Guide travel books but focusing on the most reliable locations to go for a crap while abroad on holiday. Perhaps he does have a scatological fixation after all...

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