Sunday 17 November 2013

No shit, Matt Damon: If you love Singapore, celebrate World Toilet Day

Remember, remember the 19th of November.

Going potty, poop and plop – I see no reason why World Toilet Day should ever be forgot.

While this Tuesday may not be the first World Toilet Day (it has been around since 2001), it will be the first World Toilet Day since July 24 when the United Nations adopted Singapore’s resolution to designate Nov 19 as World Toilet Day.

The man behind it was Singaporean Jack Sim, founder of the Restroom Association of Singapore and the World Toilet Organisation. He must be flushed with joy.

It was the first time Singapore had tabled a resolution before the UN General Assembly after 48 years as a UN member – and it had to be for a day to commemorate toilets. There’s a Phua Chu Kang joke there somewhere.

At least Singapore’s resolution wasn’t for a World No Chewing Gum Day.

But I’m disappointed that despite Singapore’s diplomatic coup, Nov 19 has yet to be gazetted as a public holiday here. I don’t even know what “gazetted” means.

So World Toilet Day will be like one of those pseudo-holidays, such as Halloween and Valentine’s Day, only instead of flowers, you can give your loved one scented bathroom tissue.

Actually, I’m not really sure what we are supposed to do on World Toilet Day. Instead of wearing costumes like on Halloween, do we wear diapers? What are the World Toilet Day traditions?

Well, just as a new song is written for National Day every year, a new song has been written for World Toilet Day this year and I reckon it’s even better than this year’s National Day song, although that may not be saying much.

I think the song is called Thank You Toilet and it’s sung by an animated toilet bowl with toilet rolls for eyes in a YouTube video released by an organisation called WaterAid.

The song starts:
“I am a toilet, so how do you do? I take away your wee and the odd number two.”
Other memorable lines:
“Oh, think about the things you put me through (that have been through you). Stuff from your body I happily take, liquid or solid, whatever you make.”
Then it suddenly goes from eeky to morbid:
“I am a lifesaver and that is not a lie. Where I don’t exist, thousands die.”
Knowing that is not going to improve my bowel movement at all.

The YouTube description says: “Around 700,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s almost 2,000 children a day.”

So it’s no joke.

But sad to say, World Toilet Day has been overshadowed by another cause-driven enterprise this month – Movember.

Getting people to grow moustaches to raise awareness for men’s health issues since 2003, the Movember movement has become so fashionable that even my wife is growing facial hair.

And it isn’t even recognised by the UN.

But the UN does support International Men’s Day. Yes, there’s such a thing. Don’t tell Aware or they may try to get it banned.

And wouldn’t you know, International Men’s Day is on the same day as World Toilet Day – Nov 19. It seems the UN has double-booked.

World Toilet Day can’t compete with Movember because it’s not like it can get people to have diarrhoea to raise awareness of poor sanitation around the world.

Well, maybe it can, but it won’t be very visually appealing – although some may argue the same thing about moustaches. suggests a number of activities for the big day including organising a toilet queue, a “mass squat” and a “toilet sit-in”.

I won’t take part in a toilet sit-in (not to be mistaken for a “shit-in”) as I already have trouble walking after sitting on the toilet longer than I should just because I want to get three stars for an Angry Birds level. Two is not enough.

Even celebrities didn’t help the World Toilet Day cause very much.

Last year, US actor Matt Damon vowed at a mock press conference in a jokey YouTube video: “Until everyone has clean water and sanitation, I will not go to the bathroom.”

Despite support from other famous people like Richard Branson and U2’s Bono, I doubt anyone actually believed Damon wasn’t going to use the toilet until “everyone has clean water and sanitation”.

Maybe Damon should get his buddy Ben Affleck to direct a movie about World Toilet Day. Instead of Argo, the movie can be called Ahhh, I Have To Go.

In Singapore, the Restroom Association has announced several events for World Toilet Day including a LOO (Let’s Observe Ourselves) Carnival at shopping malls and a Hawker Centre Happy Toilet Cleanup on Tuesday.

But no mass squats or sit-ins.

Since I’m a patriot and World Toilet Day is recognised by the UN because of Singapore, come Nov 19, I shall make the ultimate sacrifice and have my own one-man toilet sit-in.

As long as I can play Angry Birds on my phone, my legs can take it.

- Published in The New Paper, 17 November 2013

UPDATE: World Toilet Day Urgent Run 2014 recap