I believe that the true origins of western civilization can be traced to the advent of modern indoor plumbing. Plumbing is one of those parts of every day life which we often over look and take for granted. Think back to the Palace of Versailles, so beautifully ornate, with gilded mirrors and lavish furnishings. Unfortunately, when feeling the urge, the French nobility would have to leave the banquet table, hitch up their silk ball gowns, and “go” in the stair well. The stench must have been unbearable. Servants risked disease to cart it away. Imagine how a modern day office building would smell if everyone “took care of business” in the emergency exit. I am extremely grateful for the sewer systems and the U-Bend of modern toilets, which keep the stench and contagion at a safe distance. Modern plumbing allows dense populations to live and work together in permanent settlements. We can focus on being productive and creative, rather than using our energy to haul away the waste.
Another gift from modern plumbing is the ease with which we can wash the dirt and bacteria from our hands. There is no trip to the well to pump water. A twist of a shiny chrome handle sends cleansing water our way. I find a shower can wash away dust and grime, as well as the emotional grit of the day. Emergency fire hydrants can be found around nearly every corner, and fire sprinklers are safely watching overhead in any hotel room. But my personal favorite shrine to modern public convenience has to be the restroom at the AMC Northpark. A wave of the hand automatically dispenses soap, turns on the water, flushes toilets and delivers paper towel. To some I may appear O.C.D, but I just have an appreciation for what our cultural advances have brought us.
I understand that not everyone is as enamored by plumbing as I am. In a secluded part of Colorado, my Aunt’s friend insists on having a rickety doorless outhouse facing the mountains. The motivation for communing with nature during your “daily business” eludes me. Family legend even has it that certain ancestors of mine have met their untimely end due to the dangers of the outhouse. Circa 1874, little Mary Rourke, from my dad’s side, was bitten by a rattlesnake on her way from the ranch house to the little house. And Red Wilf, from my mom’s side, died from a severe case of influenza supposedly contracted after a trip to the privy on a bitterly cold, winter night. I think we should all take the occasional moment to respect how bathroom technology impacts society, and I personally can’t wait to see what new wave of plumbing ingeniousness awaits in our future. Somewhere, beneath a shining star, a plumbing prodigy awaits mankind.
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