Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 18/5/2004There are some places where technology should have only an incidental presence. Take the smallest room, where a radio can help pass the time pleasantly enough but one would draw the line at, say, a Van de Graff generator producing hundreds of kilovolts.

Tuesday 18/5/2004
There are some places where technology should have only an incidental presence. Take the smallest room, where a radio can help pass the time pleasantly enough but one would draw the line at, say, a Van de Graff generator producing hundreds of kilovolts. The Japanese are famously keen to stuff every nook and cranny of daily life with automatic helpmeets, and have produced some rather disconcerting devices to help you on your way with strategically deployed jets of water and air -- I can see how that might be a good thing, although I'd appreciate a little warning.

However, the latest gadget to come out of Germany falls squarely on the side of Not Wanted On Voyage. The WC Ghost, brainchild of one Alex Benkhardt, is apparently designed to spare women the misery of misdirected male micturition -- undoubtedly based on the IP protocols. It is an undeniable fact that men prefer to stand up for themselves in the process of relief, and that this can sometimes result in a slightly wider dispersal pattern than one would wish, but I prefer to see this as just one of our gender's manifold idiosyncratic charms.

Not so Mr Benkhardt. The WC Ghost hides under the rim of the seat, and has a tilt sensor. If the seat is lifted, your spiritual advisor activates and chides the man in 'a stern female tone' -- "Hello, what are you up to then? Put the seat back down right away, you are definitely not to pee standing up ... you will make a right mess..." It is claimed that this device has sold in the region of 1.6 million units in Germany, and negotiations are underway for versions for other markets, including the English speaking world.

But does it actually work? I'd think not. Firstly, there is a sizeable contingent of men who would rather enjoy being scolded by an authoritarian frau in such circumstances, and they could well be buying the device with no intent of modifying their behaviour. Second, the rest of the male clan will probably just shrug their shoulders and let fly anyway, perhaps taking a sly aim at the offending device just to see what happens. And finally, those which are disturbed by the ghostly telling-off will just leave the seat down -- with unfortunate hygienic consequences.

Now if they could only find a device that scolded teenagers for taking the last drop of milk from the fridge…