Sunday, April 06, 2008
OC OVER WC
(Snapshots from Beijing, Part Two)
The thing with Beijing's cold weather (it was something like 4 - 13 degrees Celsius while we were there) is that it induces you to look for a toilet at every stop and take a leak.
Correct me if i'm wrong, but it seems only people from the Philippines refer to toilets as "comfort rooms" or "CRs". Asking locals where the CR is will get you nowhere; but mention "toilet" or "water closet" (i.e. WC), and you'll most likely get pointed in the right direction.
Now, if you thought only Michelin awards stars to restaurants, or only hotels proclaim themselves as having "five-star" luxury amenities, etc., well, think again.
The amiable folks at the Beijing Tourist Administration (BTA) have apparently been tasked with rating the toilets at various tourist spots. Check out these toilets at the Forbidden City:
Which begs the following questions:
How exactly are these star ratings determined? Is the criteria for traditional "hole-on-the-ground"-style toilets and Western-style toilets the same?
What happens if a particular toilet doesn't maintain the standards set by the BTA , and loses its stars? Do they close it down, and send the sanitary workers to the countryside for re-training and self-criticism?
How does a particular toilet obtain a five -star rating? For that matter, what makes the difference between a three-star and a four-star rating?
In the spirit of fun, and with due apologies to the dear comrades at BTA, yours truly decided to invent the following standard rating system:
FIVE stars - Gleaming floor tiles; bathroom fixtures are either Grohe or Kohler brand; hand dryer works perfectly, providing warm relief to your cold hands. Fragrant smell emanates from citrus air freshener.
Unfortunately, NO ONE has ever sighted any WC under the BTA's jurisdiction with features such as the above, as these can only be found at the Beijing Shangrila and the like.
FOUR stars - Urinals have automatic sensors; with soap and paper towel dispensers. Bright lighting, wide mirrors; and nice floor tiles. Taciturn attendant mops the floor every 20 minutes, while smoking a cigarette.
THREE stars - neutral smell; drab grey walls; the tissue paper actually doesn't hurt your ass. Taciturn attendant hands out paper towels grudgingly, after you wash hands using floral-scented liquid soap, and waits expectantly for a tip.
TWO stars - slightly less smelly, with Western-style toilet; and liquid soap is available. The tissue paper is as coarse as sand paper, though.
ONE star - basic stinky, smelly Chinese-style toilet, with no handlebars to help you get up. Also has poor reproductions of Impressionist paintings posted above the urinals. Oh, bring your own tissue paper.
At any rate, we men can learn an important lesson from this sign posted above the urinal of an unrated no-star toilet, found at one of our tour stops: