Time to Take Back the Toilet (Ep. 190)
We’re not asking that using a public restroom be a pleasant experience, but are there ways to make it less miserable? That’s one of the questions we ask in our latest Freakonomics Radio episode, “Time to Take Back the Toilet.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
Public bathrooms are noisy, poorly designed, and often nonexistent. In this episode, we explore the history of the public restroom, the taboos that accompany it, and the public-health risks of paying too little attention to the lowly toilet. (In India, for instance, more households have phones than toilets.) Along the way, we learn about the design of public spaces and how their environments are shaped, particularly by sound.
You’ll hear from:
+ Ronald Milliman, a longtime professor of marketing at Western Kentucky University who, in part because he went blind, became a scholar of sound. We discuss a few of his many studies, including “Using Background Music to Affect the Behavior of Supermarket Shoppers” and “The Influence of Background Music on the Behavior of Restaurant Patrons.”
+ Harvey Molotch, a professor of sociology and metropolitan studies at NYU and author of Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing and Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers and Many Other Things Come To Be As They Are.
+ Joel Beckerman, founder and lead composer of the sonic-design firm Man Made Music, and author of The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms the Way We Think, Feel, and Buy.
You should also know (and probably do) that working in an “open office” (a.k.a. a cubicle farm) can make you more stressed, less productive, and generally grumpy, thanks to hearing everyone else’s conversations. The problem, says sound expert Julian Treasure, is that “we don’t have any earlids.”
And that’s why we love the Sound Princess, a Japanese gadget designed to mask the sonic assault in a public toilet.