From paper books to e-books, CDs to MP3s and DVDs to streamed movies and television, many elements of our daily life are being digitalized. We have come a long way since the Industrial Revolution where new manufacturing processes came about. It evolved from mechanical and analogue electronic devices, to digital electronics where the adoption of digital computers and records began.
Since then, technology has been constantly advancing, bringing about ease and convenience into our lives. To save physical space in our homes or offices, traditional means of storage such as physically storing photos or keeping notes in boxes has turned into digital storage of images and documents in a hard disk no bigger than an A5 sized paper.
MP3 players that were thought of as irreplaceable were phased out by smart phones with large storage capacities and music streaming services such as Spotify, providing convenience. Physical shopping has become a chore now that online stores exist, allowing us to buy everything and anything, including groceries, from the comfort of our homes. Even artificial intelligence has become extremely advanced, increasing efficiency and productivity, but taking over our jobs in the process.
As technology advances, it seems inevitable that technology will take over everything, with the intention of making life easier for us.
However, there may be one thing that technology may not ever be able to replace — toilet locks. It may seem small and insignificant, but it acts as a guard to the safe space that allows us to carry out our bodily functions.
Through the ages, toilets have gone from communal open areas to the modern-day private cubicles for us to carry out our ‘business’. Though locks were not needed back in the day with communal open areas, they came into place once private cubicles were invented. The typical lock with the occupancy indicator that shows green indicating an available cubicle and red indicating an occupied cubicle, can be found in any public toilet. Often overlooked and understated, the toilet lock and its occupancy indicator bring about more than a literal secure lock. It brings about the peace of mind as well for those using the toilet.
Firstly, toilet locks are easy and straightforward to use. One usually just has to turn a knob or push a lever of sorts to securely lock the door from the inside. On the outside, the occupancy indicator will turn from green to red, indicating that it was originally vacant, but now in use. This easily understandable and straightforward design of a public toilet lock provides a hassle-free experience for users, making it quick and easy to enter a cubicle and lock it, should the user be in a rush.
Secondly, the tangible verification of an occupied toilet door is vital in the experience of using a cubicle, both for the person inside the cubicle, and for anyone on the outside needing to use the toilet. For the former, being able to see that the door is locked and being sure that anyone outside is unable to swing the door open puts the heart at ease, knowing that they can safely and privately answer nature’s call. For the latter, the sight of the occupancy indicator’s status makes it convenient for them to gauge whether or not they can enter the cubicle, or if it is occupied and requires some waiting time. For both parties, it helps to curb any misunderstandings that could arise should someone accidentally open the door on another in the middle of their toilet activities, and helps to keep stress levels low by ensuring a secured door for the one inside, and the knowledge that the cubicle is definitely occupied for the one outside.
Though one could argue that there have come about a few automatic toilet locks for handicap toilets which prove that regular toilet locks have been digitalised, automatic toilet locks do not provide the same feeling of safety and security for those using the cubicle as compared to regular ones. Being an automatic lock, there is no tangible sight of a locked lock. This could raise the thought that perhaps if the automation malfunctions, someone could open the automatic door at any moment.
The simplicity of the invention of the regular toilet lock and occupancy indicator provides users a smooth, quick and easy experience, to the point where it is often forgotten as a vital part of one’s trip to the toilet. If such a small invention could give us a sense of security and put our hearts at ease, perhaps such construction can be adapted into the many other areas of our lives, to improve our quality of life, be it a digital or traditional invention.