Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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least recently used cubicle indicator

Indicator device to show the optimum cubicle choice
  (+15, -4)(+15, -4)
(+15, -4)
  [vote for,

There's a choice to be made when entering public lavatories (Note that I can only speak for men's lavatories - those designed for women may be completely different. I shall never know). The ideal cubicle to choose would be the one which is both the least recently used, to ensure that there is no residual thigh-heat in the seat and that there are no lingering odours, and yet it should also be the one which is the least frequently used, to minimise exposure to bacteria, etc.

It may occasionally be obvious which cubicle should be chosen (Two of them, for example, may be overflowing with foul-smelling ordure whereas the third still has the tell-tale "blue water" indicating its untouched state since its last cleaning). More often though, the least recently used cubicle will not be the same as the least frequently used, and a choice must be made.

A choice can be made on the basis of a simple algorithm. Most people either choose the closest cubicle or, seeking some kind of security, choose the one closest to the end wall. The one in the middle is often avoided as many people exhibit a sort of shyness when "on the throne" and dislike having potentially two neighbours listening to their every exertion. So I always chose this one.

This however is a crude algorithm and a technological approach may yield a better "hit rate". A simple device could be built which would be installed outside each cubicle. It would have a mechanical counter showing the number of users since the last cleaning (a measure of the frequency of use), and a light which would remain on if the cubicle had been used in the previous five minutes (a measuure of the recency of use).

This would provide a simple quantitative basis on which to make a decision as to which cubicle to use. It would remain up to the individual to make a determination on more qualitative criteria, such as odour, presence of "skidmarks", abundance of toilet roll, and so on.

hippo, May 31 2000

Toiletron http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Toiletron
[hippo, May 31 2000, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Cubicle Technology in a French Public pool http://www.theregis...ntent/28/19236.html
The cubicles are equipped with motion sensors to detect when a cubicle is being used. [dgeiser13, May 31 2000, last modified Oct 21 2004]

MIT Bathroom Status http://bathroom.mit.edu/
Status of the bathrooms in a hall at MIT. Could be adapted to include least-recently-used info. [wiml, May 31 2000, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Loo Zone Cone http://www.hawkin.c...CODE=1246&XPAGENO=8
Only 99p! [hippo, Feb 12 2005]


       Indeed a good idea, untill it is in wide use, I read once where they did a study, the very first stall is least frequently used due to everyone assuming it is most used. So if you don't mind useing the one next to the "Waterfall sound", this may be the place for you.
scotty1969, May 31 2000

       The first thing your garden variety hacker is going to do is hack the Toiletron, so that one stall would always appear more used than the others, and then always use that one.
johan, Jun 03 2000

       Well, hackers need an outlet for their energies and this is a reasonably harmless thing in an organisation to have hacked.   

       Some people may see this as a positive feature, if they would rather not use the same cubicle as the most unwashed, junk-food-consuming hackers in the building.
hippo, Jun 06 2000

       Perhaps potential users would pass under a Stinkometer on the way in, and the appropriate lav door would be unlocked and opened for them? And if the user didn't like the choice, perhaps there'd be a handy shower, and then the (now wet) user could retest.
johan, Jun 07 2000

       I once read a test that said the women's bathroom is overally cleaner than the men's bathroom mainly because women go in the bowl and rarely miss but men might aim wrong and make a mess. also women are more likely to actually use the toilet seat covers.
verobay, Jul 12 2000

       The basic idea might also be facilitated by a timer hooked up to the cubicle door that resets each time it is opened. Couplre this with a counter like the one mentioned above and you would be able to tell both the time since the last use and the number of people who have used it since the last cleaning.
BigThor, Aug 29 2000

       I like your idea, hippo. It would seem to be fairly easy to add to the increasingly-common "automatic flushers"... measure use by flushing frequency.   

       Personally, however, I think a visual assessment is more important than anything -- how many times have we seen "adandoned" stalls that have had zero use due to an unsightly bit of t.p., or an un-flushed bowl? According to your theory, this would be the "cleanest" option, and yet it is shunned.
danrue, Aug 30 2000

       My theory is consistently stay with the same one. Reasoning is you expose yourself to a smaller set of potential diseases. Kind of like lovers. Hmmm.. equating lovers with toilets.. now THAT's a nice thought for Valentine's day!
sirsausage, Feb 14 2001

       Okay, there is a problem with this one. It is not polite (in Midwestern US society, at least) to choose the middle stall. That stall should be avoided at all costs, due to the extreme proximity of other users. If I come in, and there are three stalls, and the middle one is occupied, I have to leave to go find another bathroom.
pnewp, Feb 15 2001

       It's a very interesting area of sociology. I had a conversation with my GF about "cubicle selection algorithms" in people. (That's why she's so cool - she thinks about concepts like that :) ) Anyway, it's a complex out-guessing game, because if it occurs to you that other people have had the same thought about "which cubicle is least often used here?", then you might end up picking the one which you have a natural inclination to go to first - following the logic that other people will have the same inclination and then go elsewhere, meaning that the most obvious toilet to use will end up being least used. Unless someone else has *that* thought also, in which case... but how likely are your fellow workers/pub-goers/other to think through the concept that far? ARRRRRRRGH! I can see a Dilbert cartoon in this, captioned "Workroom Toilet Cubicle Selection Paralysis (WTCSP)".
AllenGrace, May 22 2001

       oh for goodness sake people, when you gotta go, you gotta go!
lewisgirl, May 22 2001

       good idea, but i see a minor flaw: Excessively filthy cubicles may remain unused for long periods, therefore appearing to be the 'cleanest' when assessed by your machine. Generally, a recently used cubicle implies that the cubicle is cleaner that the others, as the person that used it had to choose it in the first place. Of course this would not be the case if all the other cubicles were engaged when that person entered the toilets, and the were forced to select an dirty one.
HowardMarks, May 22 2001

       I suspect that [lewisgirl] is not English... :-)
hippo, May 22 2001

       I think she is. Bet ya a fishbone.
st3f, May 22 2001

       Birmingham, UK... via London, Scotland, Detroit and Toronto. Do I get a cut of the fish bone?
lewisgirl, May 22 2001

       Oh crap. Do I have to fishbone my own idea now?
hippo, May 23 2001

       Employ someone with a fairly strong constitution to inspect each cubicle after each use and award it a score, like in ice-skating, which is indicated on the door. Then people who would *prefer* to use a grossly befouled cubicle know also where to go. The Phantom Forty Pounder would get 8 for technical ability and 9 for artistic content.
angel, May 23 2001

       hippo: Nah - I can't make you fishbone this. It's *quality*. I'll let you off because of the Detroit and Toronto connections. :o)   

       lewisgirl: Birmingham? Oh, I am sorry. If you still want to split a fishbone I'll see what I can dig up.   

       <briefly back on topic>hippo: Would a toilet mounted smell detector with external pungency indicator be of any use to you?</briefly back on topic>
st3f, May 23 2001

       Other cubicle freshness metrics than those provided by the LRUCI woul certainly be useful. It would probably be up to the individual to assign their own weights to each of these metrics to arrive at their ultimate cubicle choice. Note though (as in the final para of the idea) the importance of qualitative criteria...
hippo, May 23 2001

       [Angel] see 'Toiletron' for competitive toilet activities... Link attached.
hippo, May 23 2001

       This can be baked by placing a device on the toilet seat itself.   

       Essentially a spring-loaded mechanical counter, the device would hold the toilet seat in the down position for 5 (10, 15, whatever) minutes after the last occupant departs. After the elapsed time, the device would raise the toilet seat and increment the counter by one.   

       When you walk into the restroom, you'd be able to tell which stalls were used recently and which were used most often. I christen it the Toilet Tally®.
phoenix, Aug 09 2001

       Or the excrement increment.
hagfish, Aug 09 2001

       crap counter
hippo, Aug 09 2001

       This from silicon.com: "IBM has discarded a patent it owned on a method for determining who gets to use the toilet next. It received the patent for a "system and method for providing reservations for restroom use" in December, but has renounced its claims after a petition was made against it, according to documents released this week by the US Patent and Trademark Office."   

       Unfortunately they provide no details as to the nature of the patent. It's also one of those database driven sites that doesn't link well but just go to silicon.com and search for toilet.
st3f, Oct 18 2002

       1) enter bathroom   

       2) if air is really bad or smells like puke, consider abandoning and finding another toilet facility   

       3) select stall that no one else would probably think of and no one is adjacent to.   

       4) make sure there is paper and it is clean. if the floor is even a little wet go to (3)   

       5) lock door. be careful not to contact lock more than absolutely necessary. use fingernails.   

       5.1)if there are any drops of water on the seat (but not too many), wipe them off twice and try to avoid sitting on those areas.   

       6) sit. if the seat is still warm that is really gross but it's too late.   

       7) try not to make too much noise or fart if anyone else is in the bathroom. Wait until everyone leaves before making noises.   

       8) tear off the end of the long piece of toilet paper and get rid of it before using toilet paper. Don't use the end that some gross person might have been grabbing at.   

       9) flush, exit stall, wash and try not to grab the door handle very much because you know no one else washes.   

       10) don't talk too much in the bathroom because it's kind of weird to do that.
Autonome, Oct 21 2002

       //The least used cubicle in our office washroom is the middle one. That's the one which the mysterious Phantom Forty-Pounder (name registered with the SHSVRO) befouls every morning at about 7:30 am with a giant log and 400 metres of white ribbon, rendering it unusable for the day......//
I have tears coming out of my eyes from laughing so hard. This guy worked at my last job for a while also. (we called this person "Dump Truck").
Zimmy, Jan 10 2007

       I had a similar idea to hippo in terms of concerns and phoenix in terms of implementation: a timed mechanism attached to the cubicle door hinge, which pushes the door closed (or open, depending on local custom) over the period of time that has elapsed since the lock was disengaged. This has two advantages: (1) it allows for the immediate assessment of which of a row of cubicles is least likely to cause you mystery-thigh heat-quease (incl. if you an innumerate) and (2) it would remove the potential problem with phoenix's suggestion, which is that you may find yourself having to bring a wee-dampened seat up or down, depending on the call of your wild.
calum, Sep 01 2011


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