Around the city, mostly in parks, automated public toilets have been popping up in the last few years. Unlike the loos of old, they have self-cleaning mechanisms, so in theory they should be clean — or at least minimally unpleasant. But distrust of the automatic door (and its ten minute timeout) is rife among users, especially parents with small children who fear their offspring getting locked in the things, unable to escape.
Last week my mum told me the tale of five-year-old Zoe and her stepfather, who used such a facility at an unknown location in the eastern burbs. Stepdad went in, did what he needed to do, and then came out. Zoe decided she needed to use it too (kids invariably do when they find such a device — they love the gizmos) and went in. But the worst automatic toilet nightmare came true: the door shut behind her, locked, and the auto cleaning mechanism kicked in.
Woosh. Splosh. One clean toilet, and one wet Zoe. Not to mention a tad traumatised by the whole experience. Well you would be, wouldn’t you?
When my mother heard about this, she was quite concerned, and never to let a crisis go unanswered, got on the phone and managed to get in contact with the head engineer at Exeloo, which makes these automated toilets.
Mr Exeloo Dude was quite rightly shocked at this news, and wanted to know all about it. “That shouldn’t happen!” he said. “It’s got a sensor! It’s not meant to clean when someone’s inside it!” He went on to say that such an event was almost unheard-of, and that to his knowledge only one similar incident had ever occurred before, in Adelaide. Ah yes. The infamous Adelaide incident. Undoubtedly a legend told in story and song in local government sanitation circles.
Most of all he wanted to know precisely where this errant washroom was located, so he could get his top Exeloo Engineers down there to give it a good going over. And he wanted to know that day, because he was apparently leaving the next morning to speak at a conference in China on public toilets. Or at least, I assume that would be his topic. Maybe the conference was not specifically about public toilets, but concerned itself with wider sanitary or water-related issues.
Obviously this was a matter of pride. If your job is the Exeloo engineer, you probably live, breathe and dream Exeloos, and the knowledge that kiddies are getting traumatised by your toilet facilities would weigh heavily on your mind.
Problem was my mother didn’t know the precise location of the possessed convenience. She made some enquiries, determined the spot, and rung back with the news: Kings Way in Glen Waverley.
“Ah ha!” Mr Exeloo Engineer proclaimed triumphantly. That one — the only one in entire city apparently — is not an Exeloo, but is an allegedly inferior French model of public facility, formerly used at the Sydney Olympics (wow, he knows the history) and imported to Glen Waverley after the Games finished. This model cleans itself after every single use — something that one could well argue is unsuitable for this drought-ravaged land of ours — and obviously has less than optimum detection of occupants.
And thus Mr Exeloo Engineer could depart for China, safe in the knowledge that it wasn’t one of his WCs that was defective. But that other company ought to be ashamed of themselves.