Australia Tracks Public Potties

There’s something magical about the internet, and it’s the way it makes the world shrink. As a kid, I can remember my class doing a pen pal exchange with kids in the faraway world of Vermont, maybe 10 hours north of here. We were each assigned a person in the other class, and we wrote letters back and forth. It all seems so very quaint in this age of email and all, but it was a good writing exercise, obviously, and seemed like a very social thing to do. It probably ended after two back-and-forths, and today would be banned by schools fearing privacy breaches or something.

UGH.

But even today, as a man in his mid-30s, I’m sometimes in awe of how small the world has gotten. I have regular contact with people on two other continents, and occasionally three or four. I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s just normal. When I was six years old, that would have been a huge deal.

The fact that I can look at a map of a city in Australia — on the other side of the friggin’ globe and a place I’ve never been to in my life, nor likely ever will be — and see the streets that people use to go to work, school, and home fascinates me. There are people over there just like me. Just a little different. The weather is a touch warmer, and they have more deserts, and they have a slightly different accent, and the water goes the wrong way down the toilet and —

That brings me to this::

http://www.toiletmap.gov.au/

It’s a website from the Australian government’s National Continence Management Strategy. It’s The National Public Toilet Map.

And for the life of me, I can’t figure out whether to laugh at Big Government for wasting money on this, or imagine how wonderfully useful such a thing would be. After all, we’ve got apps for that here in America. Apps that will locate a nearby bathroom, and even one that will tell you when the best time to take a potty break during a particular movie is.

But skimming along a map of Melbourne, Australia and seeing three public toilets on the pier leading out into the ocean is just fascinating. Scrolling north a bit and finding an open restroom at the corner of Byrne Street and Graham Street near a local major road (perhaps a highway? The 33?) makes everything seem so – normal. Common. They have streets and bathrooms and schools and offices and houses. Australia is more than just the Sydney Opera House and The Rescuers Down Under. There are people there, just like you and me.

Kumbayah!

The website is a blast to peruse, because they let you search in many different ways. It even allows you to map a trip and find all the public restrooms along the way. And just to make it completely over-the-top, it’ll include directions (with timing) to stop at every restroom along the way.

If you want to take a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne, for example, it would take 10 hours and you’d stop at 70 different restrooms. This is useful information if you’re a drunk college student or the parent of a three months old, I imagine.

Most of the stops are BP and Shell gas stations, so it’s not like there’s some crazy wonderful Australian thing about public restrooms sponsored by the government and paid for with your tax dollars or anything. It’s just that the Australian government is better at tracking gas stations and their hours of operation.

And either this is the most ludicrous April Fool’s prank ever concocted, or it’s real. But if it’s a gag, they did a good job covering their tracks. Here’s another unbelievable URL linked to this story:

http://www.bladderbowel.gov.au/ncp/ncms/

And, yes, you can click on “Suggest a toilet” and do just what you’re thinking about doing:

http://www.feedback.toiletmap.gov.au/DynamicFeedback

I love all the peoples of this earth.