SHARJAH: If you take too long in the loo, then this hi-tech unisex public toilet near the Sharjah Fruit and Vegetable Market isn’t the place for you. Whether you’re done with your business or not, after 20 minutes the toilet door will automatically fling open — for all to see.
To spare yourself the embarrassment of being caught with your pants down, an LED display located inside the toilet counts down your time in one-minute intervals.
After 18 and 19 minutes it even gives out a loud verbal warning which goes like this: “Your time to use the toilet has expired. Please leave, the door will open immediately.”
Tough luck if you’re still struggling.
Manufactured by a Swedish company, the Multi Automatic Public Toilet (MAPT) costs Dh2 to use.
There’s a coin slot at the entrance similar to those found in vending machines.
Operating instructions are displayed in English and Arabic and the approach is ramped, making it easily accessible for wheelchairs and prams.
As soon as you insert the coins in the slot on the information panel, the steel door slides open, leading to a spotlessly clean cabin equipped with baby changing and special needs’ facilities.
The unit also has a circular ceramic washbasin with infrared sensor tap and hand dryer. A self-cleaning and disinfection mechanism begins as soon as you exit. Should you get locked inside, there are four push-button emergency phones.
It was not immediately clear when this toilet was installed or if there are any more of them elsewhere in the UAE, but people using it seemed happy.
“It’s very convenient. You just have to follow the instructions,” said a Russian tourist.
A local shopkeeper said 20 minutes was ‘‘ample time’’ to finish your business.
But there were some dissenting voices too. An Indian man: “Time is money, but should that adage apply to toilets? Nobody wants to stay in a toilet longer than it’s necessary. If someone is in the toilet even after 20 minutes, then he may well have a strong reason for it.”
Sharjah is not the only place on earth to install a hi-tech self-cleaning toilet. New York has similar loos across the city, but users have only 15 minutes, not 20, to finish their business. But there’s one public bathroom in London where you are under no such time constraints. In fact, you can view the scene around you through the one-way glass cubicle even as you keep yourself occupied. From the outside, the public can only see a mirrored space-cube in the middle of the sidewalk.