books for all ages and intriguing topics
There is no truer sign of civilization in culture than good sanitation.
A good drain implies as much as a beautiful statue.
J. C. Stobart, a British writer on archaeology
Somehow in planning to take a white water rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon it had not occurred to me that there would be no bathrooms, perhaps because I took toilets, bathtubs, sinks, and sewers for granted. But there I was standing on the banks of the river in a bulky orange life jacket with my name on a strip of duct tape stuck on the back listening to one of our guides describe our “bathroom.”
For thirteen days, he matter-of-factly explained, we would: use river water and biodegradable soap for cleaning ourselves; spit toothpaste into the fast moving water, and urinate on the wet sand or in the river. Every night at our campsite along the river, the guides would set up a “toilet”—a surplus military ammunition can with a large green garbage bag inside and with a seat balanced across the top--behind a boulder or tree. Every morning, the guides would seal the bag, lift it out, take it to a baggage raft, and place it in a large metal container that would be carried out of the canyon at the end of the trip. "Don't pee in the toilet or drop in sharp objects," the guide admonished us. “Urine makes it too heavy and you can imagine the mess if a sharp object pokes through the bag!"
If we needed a toilet during the day, we would use a “day tripper,” a small ammunition can with a small plastic bag and no toilet seat. Using it required flexibility, balance, and urgency.
“There’s got to be a story here!” I said to myself. And with that thought I felt my curiosity calming my anxieties about using the makeshift “toilets.” Returning home,
I started satisfying my curiosity about bathrooms. Mining stacks of written and visual materials, I discovered a serious issue. Today, 40% of the world’s population, billions of people, do not have access to toilets! Thousands of people die per day from diseases such as hepatitis, typhoid, and diarrhea due to no or poor sanitation.
The fascinating history of bathrooms is full of imaginative and innovative sanitation solutions from limestone toilets and stone bathtubs equipped with drains in the ancient Egyptian city of Tel-el-Armana to a creatively designed toilet and a shower for the astronauts on Skylab I and II. So, no bathroom humor jokes for me, just serious issues and fascinating facts!
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And here's the book!
Toilets, Bathtubs, Sinks, and Sewers: A History of the Bathroom is an intriguing, lively account of toilets, tubs, and sanitation systems with intriguingly catchy chapter titles from “Splish, Splash, the First Bath,” “The Queen's Toilet,” “Ugh, Gross!” to “Bathrooms Beyond Belief.” An updated eBook edition to be found on Amazon underscores the crucial need to raise global awareness that 2.6 billion people live without proper and sustainable sanitation.
There are still some mysteries to be solved in this world, and one of them sits right in front of the CIA headquarters in Virginia. No one has solved it yet, but in tomorrow's Minute, Carla McClafferty is not only going to tell you what the puzzle is about, but she is going to offer you an opportunity to solve it. Good luck!