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Reflections on Community

Time to Talk Toilet (Flume)
May 10, 2017

Warning: this is one of those weeks when I’m taking a break from my usually scheduled repertoire of liberal political commentary, vaguely self-righteous parenting treatises, and feel-good small town updates for a little public service potty talk. I completely understand if you choose to skip this one, and I promise to be back in regular form next time.

And yet. Not since the great Bathroom Incident of 2015 has a potty-oriented topic been so top of mind for me. For anyone who wasn’t yet in Piedmont or who floated (blissfully) above the fray, here’s what went down. In the summer of 2015 Mulberry’s made a major restroom-oriented transition. After eight and a half years of serving as Piedmont’s only public facility (save the sometimes-closed but much appreciated Piedmont Park outbuilding), we were forced to make the decision to restrict our bathroom to employees only.

Why, you might ask? The sheer volume was a contributing factor. We were already on our fourth toilet, and our beleaguered plumber determined that our flush count was closer to what he’d expect at Grand Central Station than a small specialty food store. But more influential was our fatigue from the kid/teenaged mischief. Let’s just say that there were far too many groups using the bathroom together, and from the leftover food wrappers and charming “decorations “ we found, they were up to no good. So we were forced to take a convenience away from everyone because of the disreputable actions of a very few. A hilarious (in hindsight – at the time it was alarming) series of events ensued whereby we were told that the Mulberry’s Bathroom Incident was being discussed in numerous school Site Council meetings in a fairly hysterical fashion, complete with accusations that we had cameras in the bathroom and were posting photos of students online.

But I digress. The potty-oriented issue of the day that I overheard some customers discussing this week is far more troubling: “toilet plume.” Are you aware of this phenomenon? I confess I was not, until I heard three lovely young moms discussing it, over sandwiches no less. Well, one had one of our new seared ahi tuna salads, but that doesn’t really matter. Here’s what they were talking about, and since this is taken from something on the internet called “Tech News” it must be accurate: when you flush a toilet, the swirling water that removes your waste from the bowl also mixes with small particles of that waste, shooting aerosolized feces into the air.

Yep, you read right, and I heard right: “aerosolized feces.” In the same very room where your towel hangs, where your toothbrush sits innocently beside the sink. The only weapon against toilet plume and its resulting aerosolized feces is to close the lid of the toilet each and every time you flush. Which apparently most people do not. I’m certainly an offender. In all my years of nagging my kids to eat vegetables, wash their hands before dinner, and floss nightly, I never knew about the importance of closing the lid before flushing. But I’m out of the dark now, and I hope you are, too. I send my thanks to those young moms for cluing me in, and I hope you’ll forgive my coarseness. Sometimes it takes a village to address the latest pertinent potty issues.

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