How much thought do people really give to their toilets? Probably about as much as it takes to drop one’s pants and do as nature intended. But if anyone really thought about the nature of the toilet they might realize that it has a fairly long history that started out fairly simply, but evolved over time as sanitary habits continued to change. Obviously at one time in human history, before recorded history no doubt, people might have gone anywhere they could until figuring out that the mess needed to be taken care of properly. The fact that in ancient Rome there were lavatories that could seat so many people at once is a little disturbing no doubt to a lot of people since the implication of sitting on a bench with various holes in it while chatting away with one’s neighboring toilet buddy is kind of, well, disturbing. But one thing Rome can claim is that they did have a decent system of removing waste for the time period, and while one might have thought that things would have gotten better from there, it took a while.
People today might want to think that sanitation services are nearly perfect compared to what they used to be, and to be fair, they’re quite a bit different and in some cases better. But hearing that over half the world still doesn’t have the best possible sanitation is kind of hard to imagine, even if there’s a lot of truth to it. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the type of germs capable of debilitating disease are found in human waste, and without trying to get gross about it, a lot of this is influenced by our diets as well. The toilets that are in use today are a serious upgrade from what used to be used back in ancient times, but at the same time, they’re still an evolving system since quite a few people have ideas of how to make it better and how to spread this advancing technology to other countries that are desperately in need of it.
Those that were born and raised in areas where sanitation is still important but is also easy to take for granted know nothing of the hardships that so many others have had to face over the years when it comes to public sanitation. Growing up in a home where there’s usually been one or more toilets to use and only a few people that will use them, it’s very easy to think that public sanitation is one of the greatest things around. But back in the old days and even now, those that didn’t have such facilities have had to live in filth and grime with the risk of disease and possibly death from the various germs and diseases that could be spread from human waste. Even thinking of chamber pots and how their contents were tossed out is sickening, since one can imagine that castles were far more redolent with the stink than historians want to tell us at times. Of course, the romance of history tends to get lost if one happens to mention the smells that they had to deal with back then.
There were plenty of ways to mask the smells at that time, but much as they are now, these ways didn’t really do much to solve the problem. When the first flushable toilet came along it does sounds as though the odor was still an issue, at least until the S-bend and then the U-bend, or the P-trap, came along. This type of pipe is pretty self-explanatory in form and function and is used to eliminate the odors that might waft back upward from the pipes. The water that rests in the P-trap helps with the odor and while it’s not perfect it does do its job most of the time. But thinking on how toilets have evolved, one has to wonder how much longer it might be until another option is found that will be made available to more and more people in a way that might be cost-effective and not bound to need as much maintenance.
If such a way exists, no one has found it yet, since the only option at this point is to not eat or drink anything, and that’s not about to happen. Looking back at history is usually pretty interesting, and while this was a slightly disgusting look considering the subject matter at hand, it’s also interesting to realize that ancient civilizations had this issue figured out a long time ago. Their method wasn’t perfect, but it was far better than digging a hole and doing one’s business. Plus, it was also a sign of forward-thinking that helped influence the way things are today. Hopefully within our lifetime, we’ll see another revelation in sanitation.
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