W. Maki, Editor
When I was a teenager I had a friend who
had grown up in Europe where his father had been serving in the military.
One day he showed me some family photos of camping trips they had taken to
the south of France and Spain. I remember an unusual picture they had
taken of the toilet facilities in one campground: literally a stall with
just a small hole
in the concrete floor. I was shocked. How can anybody use that, I
asked. Both my friend and his father insisted that squatting was the way
people were meant to go. The bowels were positioned better, or something
I had never thought about it, but what
they said was true: the toilet had not always accompanied the human race.
In later years I did indeed hear and read other accounts that confirmed
this "get down" method of relief.
Milestone #1: Take A Break
I suppose after a few thousand years of this technique, somebody
discovered that sitting on a log was much easier on the legs, and the idea
of the "rest room" was born. Except that rooms hadn't been
Milestone #2: The Outhouse
Over the millennia people invented structures. Huts, tents, wigwams,
cabins, castles. I don't know when it happened, but at some point in
history some clever person decided to make a small outbuilding for the
purpose of sheltering people when they needed to do their personal
business. In urban areas they used chamber pots. I recall a high school
English teacher describing Charles Dickens and life in 19th century
London. It was considered polite for a gentleman to let his lady walk next
to the buildings, as that gave her shelter from the inevitable person who
would open a second-story window and hurl the contents of their chamber
pot onto the street. No wonder Dickens' writing was so bleak and
Milestone #3: Indoor Plumbing
Being able to stay indoors to relieve oneself is a relatively recent
invention. It has been less than 1½ centuries since the widespread adoption of indoor plumbing and the toilet. This
must have been considered a big step forward at the time, especially for
us people in Northern climates.
I believe that great leaps
forward are often accompanied by small steps backwards. But we tolerate
those setbacks. Take cell phones, for example. Mobile phones give us the
ability to be reached almost anywhere, but the sound quality is a step
back from landline phones, even cordless landline phones.
I'll bet that in the late 1800's, some people had their doubts
about this form of progress called indoor plumbing. Let's face it, people make smells. With an
outhouse far away in the backyard, those odors would stay away from the
house. But bringing the bodily waste functions indoors also brought a lot
of unpleasant odors. Considering that many houses built around the
turn of the century had the bathroom adjacent to the kitchen, and since
bathroom exhaust fans didn't exist yet, the aromas were free to waft
wherever the air currents carried them. I understand that back then people
didn't congregate in the kitchen like they do today. No wonder! Back then
the kitchen was "a woman's place", and we all know that men tend
to leave the worst smells. Hmmm, is that "passive sexism" or
A hundred years ago most houses didn't
use any form of insulation and were quite drafty. This fact alone may have
preserved a lot of household peace. Later, chemical air fresheners were
invented. These may seem like a great invention, but they really just mask
the odors. Sometimes the combination of smells is worse than the original.
Milestone #4: Ventilation
Alas, the bathroom exhaust fan was invented. Now the smells could be
whisked away, relieving your loved ones of the burden of knowing too much
about you. If only we could get everyone to use the fan. This is an
imperfect invention, because the fan is almost always 8 feet or farther
from the source. The vapors still have a chance to mix in the air, so the
fan must be left running for a few minutes afterward.
Now there are super-quiet fans that can
be left running forever. When used as part of a whole-house air management
system they remove stale air and let in fresh outdoor air. Of course, if
you live in Los Angeles you might decide that the air in the bathroom is
fresher than the outdoor air.
The typical bathroom has one fan in the
center of the room. This is supposed to remove foul odors and steam from
the shower. But the air intake is too far from the source to perform
either function at maximum effectiveness. Recently some companies have
developed fans that have multiple intake points, and an air intake is
placed on the ceiling above the toilet and above the shower. Sounds good.
Milestone #5: Solving The Problem At
Then along came the folks at Evolve Corporation with a product they called FreshVent. They pursued the smart approach and devised a way to capture
odors right in the toilet bowl. I first saw their invention at the Kitchen
and Bath Industry Show in April 2002. Quite frankly, at first I thought it
was a bit extreme, but after a while I began to realize that their product
really makes sense. Think about it… we make some pretty nasty smells in
the comfort of our own homes, and then share the experience with our
families. Why? Does it have to be that way? Especially in a master
bathroom, where a couple getting ready in the morning may be using the
facilities in close sequence. And considering the close proximity of the
bed to the "throne", doesn't the master bathroom deserve the
best technology in air cleanliness?
This new toilet design could have become
a big seller, even though it would require special ducting to handle the
exhaust. However, it appears that Evolve Corporation is no longer in
business making this toilet-of-the-future. I did an extensive search for
their company... it appears that they are now a mechanical contracting
firm in Novi, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.
What a pity. When I first learned about
their product in 2002, I offered to help promote their new toilet on
HammerZone.com, but they declined. That's too bad... HammerZone's
traffic grew like crazy in the years after that. I was really broke in
those days and for a couple of hundred bucks a month I would have
plastered their ads all over my site. By 2004 or 2005 they would've been
seen by several million people each year.
Let this be a lesson to you business
owners, especially companies with new products. Web publishers can help
you promote your new products, at a price that's a lot cheaper than
magazine advertising or trade shows.