They say you can judge a person by how they treat their pets (amen). Or how about this, “You can judge a place by the ratio of residents to public bathrooms”? According to the venerable Harper’s Index (which seems to be pretty scrupulous with its sources): In Singapore, that ratio is 197 to 1. In New York City, it’s 7,258 to 1. Yeah, we could sure use a few more here in Humboldt, given the size of our homeless population.

Which got me thinking about loos I’ve known around the world.

The coldest privy I ever sat in was way north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. It was open at the back, meaning that a wind direct from the North Pole, near as I could tell, blew straight up my ass.

Brits have a more casual way of telling you what not to put in the toilet. Here’s a sign I recently saw in a British Rail train:

Photo: Barry Evans.

And this, in a National Trust cafe loo:

Photo: Barry Evans.

We’re talking about sit-down toilets, of course, the standard way of taking care of one’s business in the West. Things are different in many other parts of the world, where they recognize that not only was squatting once the universal pose, but that it’s a much healthier way to eliminate waste. With the increasing prevalence of hemorrhoids, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and similar intestinal problems, you’d think doctors would be recommending a reversion to the hole-in-the-floor style toilets found from Turkey and points east. And in France.

Squat toilet at a service station in France. “Mintguy,” via Wikimedia. GNU license.

If you aren’t into re-plumbing your bathroom, check out the Squatty Potty®.

Then there’s the acceptance in much of Europe, especially in Paris, of simplifying things by providing the bare minimum for guys to pee on the run, as it were. Here’s a urinal in Lisbon.

Photo: Barry Evans.

By the way, bidets are pretty much de rigueur in much of Europe, where the idea of dragging rough paper across sensitive skin is seen as barbaric. Saves trees, too!

Do you have a toilet story? Don’t be shy…