With the opening of the Olympics a little over 500 days away, the locals are in a never-ending search to make the city more tourist-friendly. There are more "schticks" than you can shake a stick at. (Say that fast 5 times. I dare you!). Sometimes it’s just hard to keep up. Fortunately, the "journalists" at the China Daily do it for me. They can always be counted on to cover the latest campaign or initiative. Yesterday they reported on the new "toilet ushers" that have appeared in the popular Shichahai area, or what we sometimes call ‘the lakes." This is a neighborhood in old Beijing that has been preserved and restored and re-gentrified into a combination of old world Beijing and trendy hip hang-out. Apparantly there must be a fairly serious problem (too many beers perhaps) of desparate tourists dashing about looking for toilets. These toilet ushers (did they write that with a straight face??) stand ready to escort anyone in dire straits to the nearest toilet. Here’s the description:
With signboards saying "Help you find a nearest toilet!" attached to their front and back, two friendly tricycles, run by two sanitary employees, will take their "guests" to the desired destination within 30 seconds for free! The Shichahai scenic area, which just began this humane service, has been the best place for visitors to sample Beijing’s Hutong culture, but the complicated alleyway networks often leave tourists feeling disoriented. Wang Huan, one of the "toilet ushers" told Beijing News that he had done a lot of field work before being appointed the job, and now he knows all the whereabouts of public toilets in the vicinity. From 8 o’clock in the morning to 5 o’clock in the evening, the two tricycls will search the area attending to visitors’ urgent requests.
Having mother nature suddenly get your attention is bad enough, but to be disoriented at the same time! Frankly, they’re not that complicated, since they run north and south!. I’m intrigued by the term usher. It sort of implies that they will escort their guests to their seats, which isn’t a particularly pleasant thought. Then again, I know the neighborhood well, and one would be hard-pressed to find a toilet that actually had a seat to sit on!
Remember, when mother nature calls, call the toilet usher!