On the Dearth of Hotel Bathroom Fans

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:54 am on Saturday, May 6, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random, Architecture

If someone besides me ever reads this blog then I hope that someone works in the hospitality industry because I’d really like to know why there are no fans in the bathrooms of hotels.

Maybe it’s just my own peculiar paradigm, but pooping is not a shared community event. It’s not a spectacle performed for the edification of others. It is not a monument left behind for the appreciation of the masses. There is no high-fiving, no raising of glasses, no shouting of olés.

(Although, like most guys, I have been known to brag about the occasional sub-continental size of a poop –

“Honey, you look tired. Is everything ok?”
“I’m fine baby. Just a little wore out. Just shat Asia, you know.”)

Again, perhaps my own paradigm, but I don’t wish to leave behind the sights, smells, or traces of my endeavors. I also don’t wish to broadcast the struggle – and for that I rely on the bathroom fan which, as noted, always seems to be missing from hotel bathrooms. Does anyone have insight into why this is so? Do hoteliers expect precision control of the anal apparatus? Knowing that without the comforting white noise of the fan that guests must proceed under duress and with great vigilance so as not to trumpet their intentions? Should this skill-set be ascertained at check-in?

“Smoking or non-smoking?”
“Double, queen, or king?”
“Precision Anal Control?”
whispering: “I’m sorry sir, but it’s a question we simply must ask…”

Finally, when the moment of truth arrives, are the effects meant to be heard? Sans fan, there really is no choice, is there? Is it right that the only prospect for maintaining one’s dignity is to precede the affair with a giant wad of toilet paper strategically placed in the bowl so as to mute the effect? Because whether the delicate pianissimo plip-plip-plipping of plinkers or the robust ka-SPLOOSH of greater mass, a tiled hotel bathroom will amplify the affair and leave one, most likely, with a grossed out (or hysterically laughing) spouse/partner/significant other instead of the standing ovation and chorus of bravos so richly deserved.

I know it must appear, with this post following so soon on the heels of my post about bathroom etiquette, that I have a poop fixation. I assure you that is not true. But these questions do arise in times of crisis. So please, can someone clear this up for me?

Big Nature and the Major Thirds

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:50 pm on Tuesday, May 2, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Stupid People, Architecture

Some things should come naturally to people, simply because we are all members of the human race, linked by Jungian archetypes and genetically inherited instincts and the unconscious global knowledge of things. We all get lint in our navels, we all cried at Old Yeller, and we should all understand the appropriate utilization of public bathroom stalls.

There is a five shooter on the second floor of the Place of Toil and Labor – four normal stalls and a Double-Wide Super Deluxe on the end designated as a handicapped stall. Now, before I go any further, kudos to the architect who understood that proper design of a public restroom mandates an odd number of stalls and, for the guys, an odd number of urinals. (I’m assuming there are no urinals in the Ladies’ – if there are then I have been sorely misled about a few of the anatomical fundamentals. But I digress.) Let’s face it, when Big Nature calls the last thing anyone wants is an audience to this most private of endeavors. Also, speaking solely for myself and no one else, I prefer a little extra space for olfactory and auditory reasons as well. Not that ol’ El Raymundo doesn’t maintain decorum at all times, but regretfully the same cannot be said of everyone.

Today, after a pleasant lunch at Pot Belly’s in Reston with Boris, I was hit with the mid-afternoon post-lunch urge while explaining the vagaries and mathematics of f-stops, aperture, and shutter speed to Jeff Fayne over IM. Somewhere around “8.0 allows ½ the light of 5.6 and requires a 2x faster shutter speed than 5.6 in order to achieve the same exposure – notwithstanding the intricacies of variations in depth of field and hyperfocal distance…” the kids started knocking.

“Take us to the pool, El Raymundo!” they hollered.

An insufferable man we called Gilligan once said something wise: “Never deny the colon.” I IM’d Jeff that I’d return momentarily and moseyed on past Cubicle Canyon, down the hall and to the head. I pushed the door open and then, as is my habit, glanced in the mirror behind the washbasins to check for feet and thus strategize my stall selection. Ideally the joint would be devoid of wingtips and sneakers, but alas, the men of the second floor seem to be a fibrous bunch and the stalls are rarely empty. The next best option would be some combination of any two stalls in a 1-3-5 progression of major thirds. If 1 and 3 were occupied I could take the empty 5 and complete the triad. Likewise if 1 and 5 were occupied I could take the 3. But alas, it was not to be.

Of the five stalls, two were occupied. Not in a series of major thirds either, mind you, but in a 2-4 minor third progression that obliterated any possibility of my having that blessed porcelain-and-tile no-man’s land between myself and the nearest supplicant. Oh the humanity!

Regrettably, there is only one course of action in a situation like this and that is retreat. I spun quickly, catching the door before it closed behind me, and made the Long March back to my cube. I explained the situation to Jeff. Jeff and I agreed that both men should be dragged from their stalls and propped against a brick wall in a South American courtyard, and shot. Sic semper tyrannis bathroomis.

Photo of the Day - 04.28.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:15 am on Saturday, April 29, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Architecture, Photo of the Day

Jefferson Memorial at Sunrise

Jefferson Memorial at Sunrise - Washington, D.C.
04.07.2005 ©Michael Raymond 2005 - 2006


Posted by: elraymundo at 6:05 pm on Saturday, February 25, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Travel, Friends, Architecture, Liquid Diet

Old Town Square

Prague! My favorite city in the world! The Debra and I just got back from a quick four day visit - a first for The Debra and my first since I lived there 12 years ago. Great times!

I showed Debra the city; walking Prague was something I always enjoyed when I lived there. Prague is imminently walkable - the center is compact - and simply jam-packed with beautiful buildings all crammed together one after another after another. Never bombed in the Second World War, save for a little German artillery practice designed to keep useful ammunition out of the hands of the advancing Red Army, Prague’s architecture has survived intact. The results are streets lined with ornately masoned buildings from one epoch packed tight against those from another, each with gorgeous swirling stone carvings above windows, gargoyles, terra cotta roofs, and half-columns emerging from the walls. It’s really a breathtaking place to walk.

Then you get outside the city and see what the Communists built. Shoeboxes poured-over with concrete. Grey small-windowed utilitarian shoeboxes stuffed together in ugly lots at ungainly angles with no imagination, grace, or beauty. But if the Soviet-style buildings on the outskirts are so fugly, why go there? you may ask. Why, to visit the Hare Krishnas, of course!

I arrived in Prague in 1993 with $1000 and no clue how to pronounce Jiřího z Poděbrad or Smichovské Nádraží (I figured it out) and spending money much too quickly on food and lodging. I stumbled into The Globe bookstore (sadly, removed from Holešovice and now located just down the road from the National Theater - and missing its former charm) and learned about a restaurant called U Govinda run by Hare Krishnas - all you could eat for 25 crowns! Less than a buck! The food was tasty, like nothing I’d had before, and it was true, you could eat all you wanted. I became a regular and eventually was invited, along with my good friend, Peter George (the only person I’ve ever met who hails from the island of St. Helena) to their commune south of Prague for a Hare Krishna festival where we ate vegetarian food and a giant cake shaped like a dancing blue Krishna while a cow walked among us, its neck strung with a garland of wild flowers . We watched an American television program about the HKs, subtitled in Danish and dubbed in Czech and reclined, patting our tummies while the initiates danced and sang “hare hare lama lama” and shone beatifically. Good times for all. And twelve years later U Govinda is still there. That pleased me. And that is why The Debra and I were out in Prague 8 at Palmovka, surrounded by Soviet shoebox buildings and chomping on cream-filled donuts from Delvita grocery store.

Here are some pictures of Prague that The Debra took. Click them for bigger images.
Astronomical ClockAstronomical Clock - Detail
Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square
Charles Bridge CanalCharles Bridge
Charles Bridge Canal and People
Jewish CemeteryTitan at Hradcany
Old Jewish Cemetery and a Titan at Hradcany
St. Vitus CathedralSt. Vitus Cathedral - Interior
St. Vitus Cathedral, Exterior and Interior




An act of throwing someone or something out of a window.

[From de- + Latin fenestra, window.]

Czechs invented defenestration, the practice of pushing Catholics out of the windows of very tall towers, as a means of political change and to spark bloody religious wars. Here a man demonstrates to his colleague the proper technique for defenestrating a Catholic and igniting a Christian Holy War.


This fellow may be plucking grapes from the vine to make into wine. Back during my wandering days, I drank a lot of red wine in Prague, a vintage called Frankovka - mostly because it was cheap. Less than a buck for a bottle at the Bio-Market on the Malá Strana side of Charles Bridge. When I went back last week I had to drink a glass, just for old times’ sake, which I did in a small pivnice in Malá Strana.

And how was the Frankovka after so many years? Oh, like dog pee. But not as smooth, and with more of a kick.

Jo's Bar

A lot changes in a city in 12 years. The James Joyce Pub was wrecked when Prague flooded in 2002 and never re-opened. The Thirsty Dog is now a jewelry shop selling Czech garnets and Bohemian crystal. The Repré Klub at Obecní Dům is now Smetana Hall and instead of hosting stoned patrons crashed on red couches waiting for dawn and for the Metro to start back up it now hosts reputable concerts. The Globe has moved and lost that lovely happy-accident feel of “Holy Smokes! We opened a bookstore-slash-cafe and it worked!” Prague has found and embraced the tourist dollar, and who can blame it? But one thing remains the same, and that is Jo’s Bar. It’s still there, folks, straight off the bridge into Malá Strana, down just a little ways and on the left off Malostranské Náměstí.

KGB T-Shirt

Czech humor from the Museum of Communism on Na Přikopé. One exhibit in the museum stated that efforts to enact the principles of Karl Marx cost over 100 million lives worldwide.

John Lennon Wall

There is a wall on the far side of Charles Bridge upon which for thirty years images of John Lennon have been painted. In Communist days, the police spray painted the wall to obliterate the paintings of John. Within days, John would reappear. This went on and on, back and forth, until the French Ambassador, who could see the wall from his office and who enjoyed the images of John Lennon on said wall, asked that they remain. The Communists relented and the wall has been a canvas for graffiti ever since. Sadly, the classic painting of John is long gone, replaced by this sad interpretation. Can someone with some talent please swing by the wall and give John a chance?

Milada & Jitka
Milada and Jitka, my favorite people in Czechland and two of the best people I know. Ahoj Milado! Ahoj Jitko!