For many years now, if one finds the standard of uncleanliness in most public toilets in Sydney unpalatable, you can go rely on those available for shoppers at the David Jones department store.
No longer it seems that you can do that. A visit to the city centre's flagship store on the level with Christmas food goodies gave me a most unpleasant experience with its men's toilets, especially in the booths. The polar bears on display outside the women's store may have snow white bears but this cannot be said of the shocking lack of maintenance for the washrooms.
What has become of the higher standards of hygiene for the public washrooms across the greater Sydney area these days? Have we lost our sense of community pride and well being in ensuring a decent level of maintenance for those toilets provided in restaurants, shopping centres and more?
Increasingly in many places around the world, washroom standards are a serious matter of public and government concern. One gets to rate the state of toilets in Singapore after using them. We do not want to go over board with feedback ("How was your experience?" can get to be an irritable hassle for customers after buying online, getting routine transactions done and especially after bad consumer service.) However it takes political will, group education and staff re-training to help get Sydney region washrooms back to standards of acceptable cleanliness.
Australia does not see itself as a third world country (haha, imagine the shock and horror to first time international visitors at Sydney Airport Terminal One, where no clear queue lines are helped formed after claiming your bags for checking by the Border Control.) Toilet maintenance conditions in the capital cities are deteriorating. I have visited ethnic run restaurants and find conditions deplorable - and that may pushing the boundaries of tolerance. Where are the health inspectors and what are they doing to help? We should not be just proud of our sporting traditions but also of how we pee and clean up afterwards.
The long running bane and fear of using our washed hands to open toilet doors has been reduced with newly designed washroom layouts (that first began in renovated airports) that have doorless entry. The utilisation of air dryers to wash hands without accumulating paper garbage can be a good step, but then there are reports that such air dryers contain more bacteria than ever thought. The start of bigger rooms for parents who bring in children of the opposite gender is also helpful. All these can be small steps to start changing the attitude, habits and mindset of a member of the public who can unnecessarily dirty up the floor, toilet seat and handles of a booth.
It can be sad for society anywhere when falling standards in concern, care and cleanliness leave toilet booths in conditions unacceptable for the next user. One may initially think of whether hired cleaners are doing their cleaning jobs with sufficient regularity, care and emphasis. Are some of them just giving a cursory clean rub of such publicly accessible toilets? Or are they facing an avalanche of bad habitual users who have no sense of personal responsibility?
I have witnessed staff cleaning toilets on trains or aircraft twice in an hour, but again that may not be comparable, as those are part of payable commercial fares to experience such good service. Why do each of us put up with such bad standards of cleanliness in Australia's biggest metropolitan region? Well, we may never want to visit such places again - and the list of acceptable alternatives may gradually become smaller or disappear if nothing effective is implemented to improve conditions.
We have to celebrate and congratulate public places which take pride in washroom cleanliness and with no clutter of paper or unnecessary wetness. I can think of specific cafes whose management take the effort to place potted plants, aromatic environments and environmentally friendly facilities inside their washrooms, no matter how small or large they are. Each of us are affected by this matter, unless you are one of the increasing number of people I come across these days who are defiant in not wanting to use public toilets. (The last time I came across such abhorrence of the uncleanliness of public facilities was about the cleanliness level of train seats.)