Let's consider for a moment the notion of a four-star toilet.
As we know, experts readily declare that this or that restaurant is worthy of four stars, that this or that hotel deserves five stars, and they give the same sort of ratings for resorts, airlines and cruise ships.
But what about rest rooms? Why not a star rating for them?
This idea comes from Dursun Tasdemir, a Turkish janitor in the Black Sea town of Giresun who feels a Rodney Dangerfield-esque sense of neglect. The Turkish toilet swabber declares that he gets no recognition for five years of sprucing up public rest rooms to look like garden-green aviaries.
Tasdemir doesn't just make the porcelain gleam. His bathrooms, along with the usual equipment, have fish tanks, canaries, plants, trees and even pigeons.
Calling his toilets "a must-see" for tourists, Tasdemir complains, "Not a single official has shown me the interest that my customers do.
"People like me should be encouraged," he says. "Toilets have an important place in the infrastructure of tourism."
To this, we can only say: Right on, from the bottom of our ... ah, bottoms.
Of necessity, all travelers care about toilets. Men don't talk about them much. But I have been with travel groups where women carry on toilet discussions that last for hours. "We are, after all," the women point out, "the ones who must sit."
Often filled with hilarity, their conversations proceed: "This city has the dirtiest." "In that country I always carry toilet paper with me." "Have you ever been to this one in Beijing ... in Boston ... in Branson?" "I hate squat toilets. They hurt my knees." "I love squat toilets. At least you know everything is clean." And so on.
Despite this concern and, most certainly, the need almost no one mentions toilets in travel media, much less travel advertising. I can only imagine an ad that reads: "Come to our tropical paradise. White sands, cool margaritas, waving palms and glistening toilets." No way.
Travelers, what we have here is a Toilet Gap.
But together we can deal with it. We need to create our own World Toilet Information File Best, Worst, Cleanest, Most Dramatic, Worst Smelling and, in deference to Tasdemir, Best Janitor and so on. Descriptions may be made in terms of countries, cities, airports, chain restaurants, hotels or even individual public potties.
With this list in one hand and a travel pack of Kleenex in the other, we'll be able to face a world where a door marked "Women" or "Damas" might not have an American Standard behind it.
Send entries to: Flush This! Travel Section, Detroit Free Press, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit 48226 or send an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. No scatological language, please.
We'll print your responses, or at least the printable ones. Think of this as creating a service dealing with a public convenience. Or a convenience dealing with a public ... whatever.
Also if any of you have happened upon Tasdemir's Turkish pigeons, we'd especially like a report on that.