Friday, June 3, 2016

Bathrooms - a Dive into Worldbuilding hangout summary

I'm so glad we got to do this hangout, finally, because it was really fun. Bathrooms are very funny, after all! They don't seem to appear a lot in serious fiction, and when they do appear in movies or TV, they never seem to mean anything good. They typically either come with bathroom humor, like in The Iron Giant or something awful, like a dead body.

Sometimes a bathroom can appear when a character needs to change their appearance. We mentioned The Bourne Identity and The Terminator as movies where this had happened. I mentioned Kelly Robson's Waters of Versailles as an example of bathrooms in literature, but even there you don't see too many of the toilets in question. Deborah mentioned that she just loves working with bathtubs in her Darkover novels.

I mentioned that in Australia (and also in Europe, typically), the toilet is separate from the bathroom.

There are different styles of toilets. Someone mentioned three seashells from Demolition man, but we also talked about the squat toilets that Tom Selleck encountered in Mr. Baseball. Squat toilets are more common in Japan than in the US, and they require a degree of training and muscle strength!

We talked about separating bathrooms by gender. Is it even necessary? Should we separate by "number one" and "number two" instead? What about disabled stalls? What about changing tables, which really don't belong in the disabled stalls, but take up a lot of space. Are they only in the women's, or on both men's and women's bathrooms? In public bathrooms, often people are trying to fit in as much as possible, which leads to sub-optimal organization.

We talked about how it's annoying when little kids crawl under the stall walls. Secure stalls with private space would be good, but how much surveillance do you need for safety? Will people have sex in bathrooms, or do drugs? Deborah told us that her daughter once got locked in a stall and Deborah had to kick the door in.

If you are designing bathroom facilities, they need to fit the needs of the user. This includes aliens! But you can also see forms of bias in how facilities are designs.

We talked about hand dryers, and the noise pollution they create. We debated the Dyson airblade style of dryer, because of the recent article saying they spread germs. Of course, our perception of how bad the spread of germs is is relative. Our psychological tolerance of the idea of germs is pretty low, but the Dyson isn't spreading much, because 97% of germs come off your hands just with water, and soap only raises that to 99%.

A lot of features of bathrooms are actually deliberate to discourage germs. Germs can't survive on cold porcelain. Sometimes there are a combination of features that come together to discourage germ survival in the bathroom.

Kimberly said that if you go into an alien's bathroom you could catch something that could eat your face! Certainly, the expectations for what kinds of microbes should be discouraged would be different for aliens. What if they had a hot bathroom? What if you had a researcher who was specially charged with studying the bathrooms of an alien species, and figuring out how to arrange bathrooms for the ambassador on Earth?

In fantasy, or at least medieval fantasy, the topic of bathrooms is often avoided. People might use a trench, or just magic, to get rid of unwanted things.

Che mentioned outhouses. In the 1900s, even though there were modern toilets, the toilet was often in an outhouse behind the house. This was in fact the case with the bathroom in my own husband's mom's place in the 1990's!

We talked about Japan, and how they have the tradition of toilet slippers which are worn only in the toilet room (you'll be embarrassed if you wear them out into the house!). They also have techno-toilets with lots of buttons that can be very confusing (even shocking!).

We talked about "finding the dirtiest surface." Many people go to the bathroom to find it, but that's not accurate. Our psychological idea of the dirtiest surface does not match the reality. Professionally maintained bathrooms are usually very clean. We have cultural hangups about how dirty bathrooms are.

We also talked about what we keep in bathrooms. It's not a "cool dry place," but often medicines are kept there anyway. Moisture over time is definitely a possible problem. If you were wealthy, you might have a separate dressing room, dressing table, etc.

When flush toilets were first invented there was backlash against bringing them into the house. They took up what was formerly the dressing area. Our home bathrooms are shared by the people in the house. You may also be in a communal living situation where shared bathrooms are down the hall, while you would be expected to dress in your bedroom.

Cat boxes are sometimes kept in bathrooms. You can train a cat to use the toilet (yes, it's possible!).
Laundry machines are also often kept in bathrooms.

Deborah told us about a "composting privy" which was particularly for solid waste so it could be used for agriculture. They used waste for compost at George Washington's Mount Vernon farm, too.

Plumbing is actually very complex, and designed to confine the water as much as possible. This is why you get "wet walls" in buildings. Catching and reusing water can be important, especially when it is scarce. Flush toilets use a ton of water. We noted that you don't see many clogged toilets in fiction!

This was an interesting conversation, and at the end of it we decided to take up bathing and laundry next. I hope to have that summary written shortly. Thanks to everyone who attended!


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