As I was beginning my fourth and second last loop around the perimeter of Westroads Mall I anticipated the need for a pit stop after the last lap. There are now three public restrooms to choose from; two are on the second floor. One is close to my final turn, in a walkway that connects into the two long perimeter hallways; and the other is at the opposite end of the mall, tucked into the back of the Flagship Commons. The remodelled, third public restroom is on the ground floor by the new The Container Store. My anticipation was correct so I headed for the remodelled restroom. I was enclosed by white tiles; two urinals were separated by a metal modesty panel. As I turned toward the two sinks the room seemed to spin and shrink and I was transported into that finite space called seat pitch.
I learned a long time ago there’s no graceful way to get past the drink trolley when it comes between you and the lavatory; you have to get out of its way. And that means your groin or gluteus maximus is lodged within two inches of the passenger’s face in the aisle seat. And some people prefer the aisle seat. The aeroplane lavatory can be a little intimidating. The thunderous sucking sound that launches as soon as you flush the powerful vacuum-powered toilet, and the swirl of mysterious blue liquid that suddenly appears, and then disappears in a quick, deep muffled, thwump can be a little off-putting. I had learned that to prevent boredom, dehydration, deep-vein thrombosis and sleep deprivation on long haul flights it’s best to wear loose pants, take off your shoes, and walk around the plane a lot. It’s a given that planes encounter turbulence but I’ve never seen the cabin crew mop a lavatory floor during a flight, so if you’ve taken off your shoes just remember the wetness your feet are feeling, and your socks are soaking up, is not that mysterious blue liquid.
I never thought deplaning, navigating Australian immigration, retrieving luggage, riding the airport shuttle, and checking into a South Bank hotel would manufacture a hard-earned. And we all know that a hard-earned thirst needs a big cold beer. The Plough Inn is only a short walk from the hotel, along the winding pathway lined with flowering jacaranda trees; it’s an old-style Aussie pub bustling with true blue yesteryear charm and atmosphere. I thought a quick detour to the toilet was a good strategy before settling down to a pot of Victoria Bitter. I knew I was getting close to the metal wall because the unmistakable, distinctive, smell of the Australian men’s urinal was becoming richer and thicker. When you get that first whiff of proud Aussie mateship you know you’re back home; back in The Land Down Under.
It doesn’t seem to matter if you hit the wall head-on or at an angle; splashing will happen. Depending on when you strained the spuds, or how many ice colds you’ve put away, the splashes are going to be either droplets or large drops. And because you don’t really have control over the velocity of the stream at the start, or near the end of the session, uncontrollable dribbling and spattering are guaranteed; sprinkles will end up on the floor, or somewhere. Over time the smell of dried urine deepens and the fragrance floats in the air to remind you that other males were there. I think men respect the smell of the urinal. It awakens our forgotten memories of when we were hunters; of marking our territory. It’s our last playground in the wilderness of civilization. And it becomes my companion on the fourth and second last loop around the perimeter of Westroads Mall.
Queensland jacarandas flower in October and November and their purple lilacs shroud you in a cloud of fantasy. During a guided walk through the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, I learned that Walter Hill was the Superintendent and the first curator of the Gardens. He planted the seed for the tree that became the ancestor of Brisbane’s jacarandas; a landmark until uprooted in the 1980 cyclone. The Queensland Art Gallery is home to the ancestral jacaranda tree; Under the Jacaranda, painted by Godfrey Rivers in 1903 is Queensland’s most famous painting. And fresh jacaranda blossoms fall to the floor below the painting every October and November. I thought there was a faint smell of jacaranda when I gently pushed open the door of the men’s toilet; I scanned the floor and it was clear of petals. The porcelain, wall hung, urinals did have a plastic grid screen covering a urinal cake holder; the cake had a masculine fragrance.
Summer in The Land Down Under can be summed up as heat waves, droughts, and wildfires. Using time-honored creativity and know-how Australian’s have forever experimented with managing the consequences of summer’s extremes. Throwing a brick into the toilet cistern to lessen the water in it was a traditional way of saving water in a drought; a big problem when you needed a big flush. This caused Australia to invent the dual flush toilet; two flush options in the one toilet. Nine pints of water for a full flush and six pints for a half flush. Toilets with two flush buttons are mandatory in all new buildings in every state of Australia. Most of The Land Down Under toilets don’t have a handle on the side of the cistern for flushing; just two buttons on the top.
Mr. Fraser wrote on the board during one of our Williamstown Tech science classes that the mass of an object affects how quickly it can change speed, and acceleration is how much its speed changes over time. He told us that mass times acceleration is the rate of change of momentum. Before you choose a full or half flush you need to give a quick look into the bowl, guess at the mass of the substance, do a quick calculation, and then choose the flush that will give enough acceleration and momentum for it to clear the bowl; and if you really want to get it right you need to factor in density. Full flush or half flush; the path to any decision is not always a straight one.
The forested and scenic Dandenong Ranges is a low mountain range about a 20-mile drive from Melbourne. Mount Dandenong is both a mountain in the Rangers and a small township nestled between the day-tripper townships of Olinda and Kalorama. The Sky High Restaurant is a major tourist attraction close to the summit of Mount Dandenong; the picnic areas, formal gardens, and the spectacular views of the suburbs and city skyline from the viewing platform let you contemplate the noises and pressures of the city from afar. Some say it’s the views that you go there for.
Mr. Fraser also wrote on the board that objects fall towards the ground because the earth exerts a force of attraction on them; the force of gravity. The acceleration of a falling object because of gravity is 32 ft per second per second and velocity is the rate of change of its position. In the movie Hidden Figures, the story of three brilliant African-Americans who crunched the numbers and served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in NASA history, they talk about the escape velocity needed for a rocket to break free from the earth’s gravity. Mount Dandenong is about 2100 feet above sea level. The sign in the public toilets at Mount Dandenong must be a warning to the danger, from acceleration due to gravity, when something is dropped from a height of just under half a mile. Without doing the math I think it’s safe to say that an object dropped from Mount Dandenong and accelerating at 32 ft per second per second could be approaching its escape velocity.
During the month I was back in The Land Down Under I would have peered into at least sixty-three dual flush toilet bowls trying to estimate the mass, density, buoyancy, acceleration, and momentum of the whatchamacallit so I would correctly choose the full or the half flush. I watched the water swirl, and sometimes I watched it swirl again. I couldn’t come to a definitive conclusion if it was clockwise or anticlockwise, but I can say the shape of the bowl and the angle of the flush water streamed into the bowl is what causes a clockwise or anticlockwise swirl.
From the National Public Toilet Map of Australia you can get the whereabouts, and a description of the over 17,000 public and private-public toilets in Australian cities, towns, parks, shopping centers, and campgrounds. Many towns and districts have a Public Toilet Strategy, and Public Toilet Design Guidelines and Standards Policy. In The Land Down Under you’re not far from a safe, accessible, clean, and environmentally responsible public toilet; going to the public toilet is without shame, embarrassment, or guilt. The Beechworth Visitor Centre provides guided walking tours of the Historic and Cultural Precinct; a collection of authentic honey-colored granite gold rush buildings. The Precinct includes the home of the Superintendent of Police, Telegraph Station, Courthouse, Powder Magazine, and the Chinese Protector’s office. Our small walking group was gathered outside the Telegraph Office allowing Ian to regale us with a blend of humor and fact about the discovery of gold in Beechworth. And then we heard in the true spirit of Australia
Ian, I need to go to the dunny: don’t wait for me: I’ll catch up.
And she caught up with the group at the courthouse where Ned Kelly was tried and found guilty of murder.
I remember when Melbourne had underground public toilets. Mum told us we could only use the one in Elizabeth Street just down the corner from Bourke Street; most of them have now been capped with concrete, demolished, or filled with sand. Regardless of what mum said we always ducked into the Flinders Street Station public toilet before catching the train back to Newport. I don’t remember the whereabouts of any other public toilets. It’s time I established an account at the National Public Toilet Map of Australia website and set up a My Toilets profile.