Tarpons Springs, FL- The small sponge fishing town of Tarpon Springs, Florida, recently passes a new city ordinance requiring people to perform "courtesy flushing" in public restrooms.
"Having to use a public restroom is repulsive enough as it is" says Donovan Limpster, the man who sponsored the ordinance "but to have to go in there when someone is in a stall, stinking up the entire bathroom, it's something we can do something about. I introduced this measure because for most people, it's too embarrassing to request a courtesy flush".
Courtesy flushing, once a regular occurrence throughout the country, has been neglected in recent years. Researchers aren't certain what has caused the decline in self initiated courtesy flushing, theorizing that it may just be another victim in societies ever declining sense of politeness.
"Past generations were more bashful and were more conscious of how their actions were perceived by others. If you were in a restroom stall and your bowel movements were exceptionally fragrant, a person was more inclined to be embarrassed and self conscious, so it was more natural to want to flush away the cause of embarrassment as quickly and as often as possible", remarks Dr. Paul Goodman, social psychologist at the University of Pasco. "Today, people seem more brash, more of a live and let live attitude. Nobody wants to offend anybody's actions, but no one seems to care about how offensive their own actions can be."
Mr. Limpster began his courtesy flush awareness campaign 5 years ago when he says he began suffering stomach problems because of his fear of having to use a public restroom. He says he first began his campaign but simply saying "Hey buddy, how about a courtesy flush?" when he would walk into a restroom and find a man sitting in a stall who was obviously waiting too long before flushing the toilet. "I'd walk in and the vapor would be so bad, it would stick to your face! I don't know how these people could stand sitting there, just steaming in the smell of their own, well, you know what I mean".
Donovan wanted to reach more people than the few he would personally encounter during his visits to the restroom. Soon he began to print up fliers and post them in restrooms all over town, but they seemed to have little impact. Then he took his crusade to the mayors office, who initially supported his efforts, but hesitating in jumping on the band wagon over concerns that water conservation would suffer. Limpster was able to convince the mayor to promote the idea after enlisting the support of city custodians. The custodians liked the idea because when a person flushes more often during their bowel movement, there's less instances of plugging up the toilet, which causes overflows and custodial attention.
"I hate having to clean that stuff up" says custodian Joey Miller "I blow chunks every time! Courtesy flushing helps reduce that problem. Besides that, just having cleaner air in there when I have to go refill the hand towel dispenser would be awesome!"
Since passing the Courtesy Flush ordinance, nearly a dozen people have been cited for ignoring it. The penalty for a first time offense is $76 and 5 hours community service cleaning public restrooms. Interestingly enough, offenders cross gender lines with nearly as many female offenders as male.