One of the pleasures of travelling by air is the impeccable rest facilities found in airports. They’re clean, they’re roomy, they offer one the space and time for comfort, especially appreciated after a long, cramped flight whose lavatories are too small to allow for proper relief and post-relief freshening.
Which is why I was disappointed to find that in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, all of the toilet stalls were soaking wet. I mean, come on, there’s enough room here to stuff my luggage while I take a break, but with water all over the place? And I have worry about my shoes and trousers dragging in the pool of water while I seek relief? What’s up with that? Where’s all this water coming from? Did they just cleanse the whole rest facility with a firehose or something?
After dealing with my disappointment and discomfort at the situation, I figured out what was going on. It was the flushing mechanism. In American toilets, the business is done in a pool of water and when you flush, the contents of the bowl get sucked down in a whirlpool while streams of water wash the sides.
In Schiphol commodes, the bowl has no initial pool of water. The business is done in a dry shelf. When the flush is activated, an arc of water shoots out from the bottom to clear the shelf (usually requiring repeat applications to get it all clean), and with each arc, some quantity of water is splashed out of the bowl and onto the floor – just a little bit each time, but enough to account for a considerable accumulation over the course of several hours.
What’s up with this mechanism? Why the dry bowl requiring repeat washes? Why the arc of water mechanism making the floor wet? Why not use the American-style toilets?
Strange. Dutch toilets come in two types; the one with the “dry shelf” and the one where your “business” falls in a bowl of water.
Neither, when functioning correctly, wets the lid or the floor of the bathroom when flushed.
So my guess is that all toilets were malfunctioning in some way during your visit. I can’t think of another explanation. If the wet floors were due to cleaning, you would have seen a cart and cleaners mopping the water up again.
So, color me . What you’ve encountered is not the normal situation.
I was wondering about the “dry shelf” thing and was discussing it with a friend of mine who had been stationed in Germany while in the Army. He said that those dry shelf commodes were common there and he was curious enough to ask several people why they were that way. They all came up with the answer: “So you can examine it before you flush it down” or something to that effect. Why would you routinely be interested in examining your extreta? Here, only if you’re suffering from certain stomach ailments might that be of interest.
I can think of a few reasons. Many people check their stuff to see if there is blood, if the color is okay, if there is something else wrong. Many little kids, playing outside and stuffing dirt in their mouths, can still contract intestinal worms, and this is how their ceregiver can spot them.
Now that most intestinal diseases are a thing of the past, I guess dry-shelf toilets are just a habit that will take some more generations to die out. But there’s another reason that people who are used to a dry shelf like them; your butt isn’t hit by a cold wet “splat” when your thingum hits the water.
I was living in the Netherlands for the past two years, and frequently used the toilets in Schiphol airport. I never experienced the problem the OP mentions.
I do hate dry-shelf toilets, though. Hurray for being back in the States where you can actually get rid of your poop without having to scoop it off the shelf with the bowl brush! (Maybe the flooding problem in Schiphol was the result of some maintenance person trying to increase the force of the flush jets to overcome shelf friction so the poop will flush properly, and making the stream a bit too powerful?)
My own hypothesis about the purpose of dry-shelf toilets is that they’re designed to ensure that people will actually use the bowl brush after pooping. The cleanliness-minded Dutch seem to think that poop streaks should always be removed from the toilet bowl immediately after use (which in itself is not a bad idea). So if you have to get out the bowl brush anyway in order to push the poop off the shelf while flushing, you’re more likely to give the bowl a quick scrub before putting the brush away. Voila, sparkly-clean non-poop-soiled toilet!
My Dutch sister in law reccomended that I put a length of toilet paper on the shelf before doing my “business”. This allows the stuff to be easily flushed without the need for extra cleaning with the toilet brush. It worked very well too.
I also think that the dry shelf models are bad because keeping feces in the open air like that makes a much worse smell than when it is submerged.
Yes, I remember those dry shelf toilets in the Netherlands back in 1975 when I was there. . I also remember in earlier years the importance of stool examination. God help me now. But what hasn’t been mentioned yet here are that those dry shelf toilets are accompanied by reservoirs that are perched much closer to the ceiling so that when you flush there is a significant force dislodging the dump.
Yep - used 'em at a concert, one of the great advantages to being male - four toilets in a space only slightly larger than a porta potty - and actually “private” (at least for your 'junk) but really unnerving to use.
Speaking of spraying off poop and urinals - my worst ever toile experience was walking in and seeing a massive pile of runny poop in the urinal…and another on the floor. Much less than savoury
That’s horrible looking busy! I can’t imagine why someone would think its funny to walk up to a urinal, drop their pants and lay some meaty chud for all the world to see. mkay?
Sorry, I’m enjoying the south park thread too much.
Oh, yes, those grey plastic urinals are often temporarily provided by the city council in the Netherlands at open-air-concerts, major street-events etc. Guys are not supposed to drop pants while using them (that would amount to public indecency, but just to open their fly.
Here’s a pic of another dying tradition: the Amsterdam City council provided public urinoirs, that looked like this.