You say toilet and I say bathroom, he says loo and she says restroom. We certainly have a lot of names for what the English might have once referred to as the water closet. We also have a lot of expressions for what we do in there. Do we take a pee, have a wiz, or when we are sick, we may have a doctor ask us to urinate in a small plastic tub? What about doing a number 2, as opposed to doing a number 1, something we are much coyer letting people know about. Maybe we simply take a dump, have a crap, go for a poop, or the more creative of us may drop the kids off at the pool or even release the chocolate hostage. Today we are going to broach this sometimes embarrassing topic:
First of all, let’s have a look at the different kinds of toilets in the world. The most common is the sitting toilet; that is probably the one you have used today at some point. This is known formally as the European water closet, hence you might sometimes see the initials WC instead of restroom or toilet. There are of course lots of variations on this type of toilet, but they are pretty much all iterations of this common sit down flushing bowl toilet. The other common toilet is what we call the squat toilet, sometimes known as Anglo Indian pans, which can either be raised from the ground or at almost the same level as the ground but resting on about 2 or 3 inches of cement above the floor. These toilets are actually said to be better in terms of letting things out of our body, although when westerners visit countries in Asia where they are common, they might complain about the discomfort of crouching, or squatting. They can be found in countries such as China, Thailand, Iran, Russia, Kenya or Syria, but they are on the decline and being replaced with sit down toilets. They generally don’t have a flushing mechanism, and you often have to throw water down there after you’ve done your business.
The history of the toilet is obviously a long and complex one, as it’s not as if defecating is modern. In Ancient Egypt, it’s thought people would excrete into a sand pit and when the pit was ready, it would be emptied. The Romans had sewers, and so the feces would be carried away in sewage water. It’s also said privacy was not that important in Ancient Rome and so when you did your stuff, it might have been next to another person. The first flushing toilets similar to the ones we enjoy today arrived in 1596 when Sir John Harington installed one for the English Queen. But it wasn’t until 1775 that Scottish mechanic Alexander Cumming invented a flush toilet very much like the one we use today. Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet, but he was one of the top manufacturers of toilets in the 19th century. That’s where we get the expression “take a crap”. These days you’ll find smart toilets and smart urinals, which might include bidet functions, seat warming, and deodorization. At the moment, Japan seems to be leading the way in such toilets. Another thing Asians are fond of is the spray gun, which mean spraying water on your anus instead of wiping it with tissue paper. The brits call that toilet roll. Westerners generally feel uncomfortable doing this, but most end up preferring it and admitting it’s somewhat cleaner. Some cultures use their hands and water, which makes most westerners squeamish.
Sewers weren’t always as good as they are today. In the year of 1858, during two unusually hot months in London, the city was hit with what was called The Great Stink. The stink from human waste pervaded the air making people very ill. Methane gases exploded and killed people, and thousands more died of cholera. Novelist Charles Dickens wrote of the Great Stink, “I can certify that the offensive smells, even in that short whiff, have been of a most head-and-stomach-distending nature.” Sewers these days are much better, if not still sometimes home to alligators or snakes. In Thailand recently, media have reported numerous incidents in which pythons have made it all the way to the toilet and bitten someone. One unfortunate man in 2016 had to have the huge snake removed from his private parts, causing quite the bloody mess in the bathroom and landing him in the hospital. There have also been reports of snakes in the toilet bowl in the UK, Australia, South Africa and the USA in the last few years. It sounds crazy but it’s a serious problem. Earlier this year in Thailand, two different snakes scared and bit members of one family in their luxury house in the space of one week. Now the family is not surprisingly scared to take a poop.
So, let’s really get down to business and talk about what we do on the “bog” – that’s a British expression. Humans don’t poop too often compared to some animals. Geese for instance are said to poop every 12 minutes, while we all know rabbits release silos of droppings – about 300 to 500 pellets a day depending on the rabbit and its diet. All animals dispose of their food waste, except they just have different ways of doing it. Jellyfish, for instance, poo from the same orifice they eat from. The only animal that we can find that doesn’t poo is the demodex mite, which doesn’t have an orifice from which to poo from. They store the waste until their time is up.
As for us humans, we generally poo on average once a day, but as you well know this is not always the case. It’s thought that the average person will excrete about 4.5 ounces (128 g) of fresh feces every day. It also depends on how much you eat, so a 300 pound man will poop a lot more than a 100 pound girl. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, an American man of average weight – about 196 pounds (88.9 kilos) – will poop about 360 pounds of feces every year. That means if you saved your poop over the year, you’d be able to fill up an oil barrel. The poop, though, of course would get smaller as it gets older. If you lived until you were 70 that means you’d make something like 25,200 pounds (11,430.5 kilos) worth of poop. That’s about two times more than the largest kind of elephant, The African Bush elephant. According to the New Scientist, a healthy human will on average spend 12 seconds evacuating his or her bowels. This doesn’t include waiting there for more to come out, but the actual time when the feces is being excreted. If you pooed once a day, this would mean in a 70 year lifespan, you’d spend 3.5 days releasing feces from your anus. That’s much different from how much time we spend on the toilet waiting, reading, and thinking, which is said to be about 42 minutes a week or 92 days in a lifetime – the research didn’t say how long a lifetime was, but it was British so we can expect around 79 years.
What about doing a number one? Well, as you well know that all depends on fluid intake. If you watch a football match and drink an entire case of beer, you are going to pee a lot. But on average we consume about 8-12.5 cups (2-3 litres) of water a day. The website Medicine Plus says the average liquid consumption a day is about 8 cups (2 litres), and on average we’ll take a wiz about 6-7 times a day. The pee output for drinking 8 cups (2 litres) a day is anything from 3-8 cups (800-2000 milliliters). This might be affected by age, health, medical conditions and bladder size. That’s very important, as you’ll notice some of your friends will often complain about having a weak bladder.
According to what’s called the “Law of Urination” our standard average peeing time is 21 seconds. If we say we pee 7 times a day on average for 70 years, that would mean we spend an average of 43.4 days in total urinating. In that time, if we take the average of 8 cups (2 liters) a day, we will have peed a grand total of 13,500,000 gallons (51,100,000 litres) in a 70 year lifetime. How much pee is that? Well, it’s quite a lot. An Olympic swimming pool holds about 660,430 gallons (2.5 million litres) of water. So if you pee 8 cups (2 litres) a day for 70 years, you could fill up 20.4 Olympic swimming pools with your own urine. I guess at that point you could call yourself a peeing Olympiad.
So, Are you the average person on the toilet? Have you ever tried a squat toilet? Let us know in the comments!