I’ve just got back from a series of business trips. What follows it the result of extensive research over the past couple of months into the facilities in my company offices globally.
What struck me at first with the offices was how similar the places are. You log on to your PC using the same account, all the apps are the same and in the vast majority of cases you're sitting on the same type of chair with identical office furniture. All is, however, not what it seems. All one has to do is visit the bathroom (or whatever they call it in the States). Here the very core of the national psyche, the very essence of what it is to be British, American, Chinese or Japanese is on display for all to see. I only wonder what the facilities in some of our emerging markets sites are like.
First impressions are, of course, the most important. Here, London probably wins. The combination of wood and marble is definitely smart. Mind you, entering said facilities on the trading floor at half eight in the morning is not something I relish. I don't know what the traders get up to in the evenings (well, I've got an idea) but it certainly doesn't agree with them.
The New York washroom is big. It's shiny. It's stainless. It's obviously American. The only thing that's missing is The Star-Spangled Banner piped for all to hear. Urinal technology is up to date with infra-red sensors to detect your presence and flush afterwards. This is a common theme in Tokyo and Hong Kong too. It only seems to be poor old London that has to suffer periodic flushes and the stench urine. Also, who is it that breaks the brass plug hole strainer on London urinals?
If it's number twos in The Big Apple, you might as well just squat in the middle of the office. The trap doors have a gap of about a foot underneath and an inch round the sides. I rather think that this is just Americans showing off again, but perhaps it's just poor carpentry. This is in great contrast to the Tokyo office. The trap doors are right down to the floor. Japanese traps also have the best locks.
Hong Kong and London are quite similar here with an average gap - more than strictly necessary but at least it's not the New York open style. Hong Kong unfortunately suffers from the shiny floor syndrome. When you're having a good think, it really is disturbing when you see the reflection of one of your colleagues in the floor under the door - what can they see?
Toilet seat style is interesting in the Far East. Hong Kong arses must be square that's all I can say of their seats. Perhaps it's a management ploy to stop staff sitting for too long. Mind you, the local newspapers aren't much of a read so there's no real incentive to delay the return to your desk for too long. The Japanese, however, are a race that thrives on technology. Witness your typical Tokyo office trap. The first thing you notice is that there's an LED covered control on the side. This is, quite worryingly, plugged into the mains. Not understanding Japanese I couldn't tell you everything it does - and I didn't risk pushing all the buttons. What I hear is available is jets of water, sprays, different powers and seat warmers. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't like sitting on a freezing seat, but there's something disconcerting about the thought of the recently vacated seat when it's warm. Of course, some Tokyo toilets have a facility to make a running water noise as soon as you get in to hide any other noise - in London I think we'd need a fog horn.
This survey was funded both by my company and by myself at great personal sacrifice. I am forever indebted to the army of staff that hold the most important job in the company - keeping the crappers clean. Now, an interesting lot they are. In London we have a chap to clean the Gents and a lass for the Ladies. They seem to spend slightly too long in the place than is strictly necessary but there's nothing to worry about (I hope). Hong Kong as a little lady to do the job. For the Gents, she waits until the bog's empty and then dives in. If you're caught short when she's in there you have to go to another floor – tough shit if the turtle’s head is showing. Now, if only Tokyo was the same. You could be standing there, old fella in your hand, minding your own business, when in comes a little lady and starts sweeping and mopping by your feet. Now I'm no prude, but when it comes to urinals I don't want somebody's mother mopping round me as I pee. What next, scrubbing the bowl as you dump. C'mon.