Background music where it’s needed most: Public restrooms

Japan beats the US when it comes to comfortability 

By Clay Parlette

Music is all around us. It serenades us in hallways and rocks us as we shop. It trickles into our ears as we pause in elevators and in waiting rooms, and jumps at us from multiple angles as we drive down the street. Sometimes we request it, and other times we just put up with it. But the one place we all need it, it’s absent. Every. Single. Time. I’m talking about public restrooms. You know, those filthy places of respite where you always hope to be alone, yet oftentimes end up tensely having to greet your professor, or the kid who sits behind you in English, right before you do what you came to do. It’s an accepted rule of engagement (at least among guys) that you don’t make eye contact or speak much more than an “excuse me” when in the porcelain kingdom, but the rule hardly alleviates any of the all-around awkward nature of relieving yourself in a public place.

Expansive studies have been commissioned across the world to determine if music and background noise can have an effect on sales, or drive customers to a particular store. And, in 2016, music is ubiquitous, thanks to the internet, streaming services and inexpensive electronics. Yet, in most every public restroom you enter, the only sounds that greet you are swooshing toilets, sinks and…you know. I can’t be the only one who thinks this, but I may be the only one who cares enough to write about it.

It could be one of those topics that most people just don’t think about until it’s time to go. Or, maybe it’s just too awkward of a topic to bring up when designing the new line of stalls in the Student Life Center. Whatever the reason is that keeps this country from making us all feel a little more comfortable, I’d like to find out why.

Here’s where the Japanese have us beat (along with a slew of other topics.) There’s actually a button on some of their impressive potties that can make music and rushing water sounds to create a helpful cacophony while you do your business. Is this really so bizarre?

Sometimes I go to the extent of searching for a deserted bathroom in the far corners of campus so I can rest in peace. Other times I just do the team a favor and pull out the Spotify for the several minutes my stall is occupied. Honestly, I can’t afford to continue eating Olive Garden for every meal just to enjoy their Italian-sonatafied fancypants washrooms. This may be one of those questions I die without ever knowing the answer to, but at least I know some others were probably wondering the same thing. If you’re interested in a deeper discussion on the topic, listen to the Freakonomics podcast episode “Time to take back the toilet.” And, as always in public restrooms, play it safe.

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