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WEEKLY WHINE

Travel by toilet!

You would surely have no idea of all the troubles and difficulties we went through in developing the plumb-transporter. It was much like what the inventors of the iPhone must have gone through, I’m sure. As with a pocket telephone/calendar/multimedia player/Web browser with a touch screen, the first challenge was reception quality.

The first time we tested it, the jar of mustard came through from the men’s room to the women’s room just fine, with the slight exception that it was no longer suitable for use on sandwiches, unless of course the sandwich originated at McDonald’s. It took a great deal of adjustment to the Phillips rays, as well as the addition of a 2000 Flushes, before this problem was avoided.

We then desired a living test subject. So, as any self respecting plumber-physicist would do, we broke into the hideaway of the GoobNet Special Projects Enhancement and Enforcement Division [SPEED] and “borrowed” a goldfish from their tank. The goldfish, which I believe they had named McNeil, was transmitted largely intact, though afterward, all it wanted to do was float at the top of the bowl.

When we returned McNeil to the GoobNet SPEED’s tank, they moaned that one of their fishes had mysteriously died overnight. Being the courteous neighbours that we were, we offered to examine the corpse. We reported to them that the poor thing had died of old age. For some reason they refused to believe us, citing some nonsense argument about him being hatched just days ago.

However, our analysis had demonstrated to us that the unfortunate tiny fish had fallen victim to an unfortunate tiny heart attack. A second goldfish [which we acquired on an “involuntary loan”] was put under and then transmitted. As I watched in the women’s room, the fish, which I think had the name Sharky, slowly came back to life. We would be delighted to show you that historic fish, but in a moment of celebration, Clarissa swallowed little Sharky.

Through more adjustments to the process and to the ballcock, we were able to reduced the required swirling speed, to the point where the test subject, named Jamie Lynn Spears, was able to travel between the two transporters, in full awareness, with no ill effects. As a token of appreciation for the help that our friends at the GoobNet SPEED had [unknowingly] given us, we presented them with a plaque to which we had bolted our helpful friend Jamie Lynn Spears. We had actually wanted to bolt the actual Jamie Lynn Spears to the plaque, but she did not respond to our repeated requests for participation.

The time had come, of course, for human trials. We waited for volunteers to step forward, but then we realised that we would have to go outside our little team. So we waited for Rich to enter the men’s room, and then I pulled the chain. Nothing happened, and about ninety seconds later, we saw Rich walk right out of the men’s room, completely unfazed.

After a consultation amongst our team, we realised what the problem must have been. So, for next time, we waited for Rich to enter the bathroom with a newspaper in hand. When this happened, I pulled the chain again, and sure enough, the camera showed Rich sitting in a stall in the women’s room, none the worse for wear. That is, of course, until Gaby discovered him in there and applied a swift kick to his testicles.

Eagerly, we invited the media to our grand unveiling event. They refused to believe us, despite seeing with their own eyes a steady stream of volunteers walking into the women’s room door, and then walking out the men’s room door. An open and shut case, as it were. All in all, it was a fine time for the media to rediscover its scepticism.

But finally, one writer braved the trip to the bathroom. We held our breath, but he emerged from the men’s room saying that he felt just fine. The remaining members of the Fourth Estate then experienced it for themselves. As it turned out, that first traveller wrote for the Weekly Standard and therefore would not have been missed.

So, with much ballyhoo, GoobNet’s Finest Plumb Transportation was introduced to the world at a ceremony in Los Angeles. Up the coast, a crowd in San Jose awaited the appearance of the first person to make his or her way through. Their eagerness dissipated when they saw Alexi Lalas step out of the stall, and a number of wags in attendance in LA suggested that they keep him.

You can thank us for ending America’s addiction to oil, for putting a stop to the violence in Nigeria, for instantaneously making Hugo Chávez irrelevant, and for reversing all of the hard work put in to bring job opportunities to the Iraqi people. What is more, by installing a turbine in your toilet, you can also use it to power your home. When we discover how to transmit cable television and Internet data directly through the water lines, you will not need any other connections to your home.

Of course, as you may know, difficulties do crop up from time to time. The most frequent occurrence is a vertical inversion of the contents of the bowl with the person on top of it. In fact, we are sued by a few individuals every year after they enter important business meetings smelling like the aftermath of Cinco de Mayo. But as we routinely remind you in the manuals and the warning labels, you must properly scrub your bowl regularly for best results.

Then, too, a small number of users have had the misfortune of being flooded into the mutated pets that were flushed back when toilets were used only as toilets. The results of this, suffice to say, are not pretty. We do try to compensate these poor souls’ families, but until the Department of Health mounts a massive effort to hunt down these deranged mutant killer monster sewer goons [that they have not is a gross misuse of public funds], that is just one cost of doing business.

But these affect only about one in every forty million flushees, a mighty fine record if we do say so ourselves. And ever since intercontinental pipelines were laid down two years ago, it is possible to travel to famous bathrooms all around the world, excepting, of course, the lavatories on board aircraft, which are obsolete anyway, so who cares? Why would one arrive at an airport hours in advance of a flight that is likely to be delayed hours more, all the while subjecting oneself to invasive searches and scans, anticipating arrival at a destination at which one will be famished, dehydrated, and in possession of three ounces or less of toothpaste, providing that one’s baggage was not sent to Rabat instead of Rochester?

Yes, under our famous slogans “See the World, One Flush at a Time” and “The Threat Level is Always Crystal Clear”, over one billion people have now travelled by plumb-transporter. We are delighted to have served the public.

And on that note, I must make my way to Atlanta for an engagement tomorrow morning. What’s that? Oh no, I’m going by plane. I don’t travel by toilet! You see, I helped invent the thing!

Aircraft for me! Good night!

For Arthur C Clarke.

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