Forget about restaurants—wherever Jeffery Deaver goes when he has to go, he takes notes. In a Wall Street Journal column, the novelist says, “I have notes on and photos of 50 or so [bathrooms], amassed over decades of international travel (I average about 80,000 miles a year on book tours throughout the world).” He keeps the details for use in his books, though he admits there aren’t many lavatory scenes in his work.
Still, Deaver has seen a lot:
I spent the afternoon strolling through the palace gardens [of Versailles]. Stopping in the men’s room, I opened a cubicle door and did a double-take at seeing a hole in the ground. My first thought: Who’d steal a toilet?
Closer examination revealed, of course, that the design was intentional. I remember thinking that the configuration made some sense: fewer working parts to repair, easier to clean and, well, nothing to steal…. I encountered a rather intimidating toilet in Milan’s Navigli district, my first automated model. The instructions were in Italian, so I wasn’t sure exactly what its features were, but I believe you could adjust the height, automatically raise and lower the seat and lid, and apply a sanitary paper covering. Heat may have been involved—and lumbar support, for all I know.
Perhaps the funniest anecdote involved a toilet in Tokyo:
I probably could have figured out the commands on the touch pad, which resembled an Xbox controller, but a warning label on the inside of the lid depicted the face of a man in distress. Beneath were several lines of boldface type—in Japanese—ending in an exclamation point. This struck me as unfair; if you are going to use an English punctuation mark to emphasize peril, then at least include an English translation on how to avoid being scalded, drowned or electrocuted by the toilet.
This reminded me of that 7th-grade joke (WARNING: TOILET HUMOR AHEAD) about the guy who uses the airplane bathroom, hits several buttons, all of which do soothing things to his nether region, and then he presses the button labeled ATR. Next thing you know, he wakes up in a hospital and tells the doctor the last thing he remembered was pressing that ATR button. “Oh,” said the doctor, “you mean Automatic Tampon Remover?” (YOU WERE WARNED.)
In any event, Deaver says the Japanese inscription warned against standing on the toilet lid while replacing a light bulb.