New, fancy, public restrooms are a common sight in San Francisco. Every block or so on Market Street you can see one of these beauties glistening in the sun like a modern oasis of human waste disposal. As you may be aware, these highly- efficient toilets are self-cleaning and coin operated. You just put in a quarter to gain entry, do your business, and when you leave the unit cleans itself, retracting the toilet into the wall and purging the restroom of all toilet paper and other unfortunate byproducts of #1 and #2. Hence the self-cleaning public restroom question: How does the restroom know you've really exited?

How long until we begin to hear horror stories about hapless victims of this ungodly shrine to cleanliness and automation? Who will be the first person to drown on a San Francisco sidewalk? Forget the Patriot Act, telephone solicitors, and designer drugs- this is the real sign that our Brave New World is already here.

I love my country and I couldn't believe that our public officials, those men and women who swore to defend the Constitution, would lead us to our slow deaths in these seemingly innocuous port-o-prisons. To calm my fears I did some research.

  • I found this on the Palo Alto Weekly website, in an article about Palo Alto's plans to follow in San Francisco's footsteps:
"Despite some people's fears, Johnston of the mayor's office assured that they haven't had any instances of the self-cleaning mechanism activating while someone is still inside." http://www.paweekly.com/PAW/morgue/cover/1997_Jul_9.SIDE1.html

Breathing a sigh of relief? I'm not. What's missing from that sentence is big, fat, YET.

"...a 24-hour monitoring system by motion sensors. The sensors detect when the restroom is occupied, and after 20 minutes, alarms are sounded and the doors are opened." http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/134331864_toilets21m.html

This is the answer to the self-cleaning public restroom question. The restroom DOES NOT know when you've really exited. A motion sensor is simply unacceptable. If I were to enter the restroom, then re-open and close the door while remaining inside, motionless, the motion detector would give the "all systems go" and proceed to wash the life out of me.

Beware these perfidious panaceas of poop. Don't step foot into a single one of these sanitary slaughter stalls. Write a letter to your mayor, to your congressman, or to the president. And next time you're in the city and you need to go, hold it till you get home. You'll thank me later.

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