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February 24, 2008

Taking the Green Line, not the 7 Train, to Flushing

When I was in college, you probably will not be surprised to learn, some of my friends were pretty immature. One of them used to make cracks about synchronization among the female students. At "that time of the month," he'd say, there'd be a mass simultaneous flushing of toilets, putting the entire plumbing system of the college at risk.

This was actually one of the less immature versions of the stories I heard. Supposedly, it's a common college prank to have the guys engage in coordinated flushing of the toilets, with the goal of actually breaking the system. My buddy's joke was a lot less destructive, I'd say.

But all of this was brought back to me by an article in the Washington Post today. I am very unhappy that I was not asked to participate in this project, which would have been a blast. And you couldn't even call it immature, because it was part of a planned testing program to ensure the plumbing in the new Nationals Stadium can handle 30,000 or so beer-sodden fans (assuming they ever get that many).

The project I'm referring to is this: "A Test of 7th-Inning Stretch Proportions, Flush by Flush."

It was an important, if not highly skilled, job required of 175 volunteers yesterday at Nationals Park. They were present for a synchronized swooshing, a choreography of commodes to test whether the new stadium's plumbing could handle the nearly steady flushing of more than 500 toilets and urinals.
Synchronized, eh? Did they invite the women from the college dorm?

Just as with the immature pranks I described above, you have to test the system to the max. How often would each urinal be used during a game? Every 30 to 45 seconds, perhaps? Well, you have to test it with a shorter interval.
"Please instruct your people: every toilet every 10 seconds, every urinal every 15 seconds," Howard reminded over the radio. "No more, no less."
The trouble is that when you let the women get involved in a project like this, which is really saturated in male immaturity, they don't quite get it right.
And the volunteers took their jobs to heart. Inside a ladies' room on the 300 level, Emily Harris, 24, kept a steady eye on her watch. "Five, four, three, two, one," she counted off as she and her mother, Kit Harris, 54, and another volunteer, Morgan Dodd, 56, alternated their way down the row of stalls, flushing one toilet every 10 seconds.
Ladies, it's not one toilet every 10 seconds; it's every toilet every 10 seconds. If they had invited me to participate, you can be sure I wouldn't have screwed that up. And I would have earned my commemorative tee-shirt.
"We were nowhere near straining the system," Kirlin project engineer Tony Giampapa said happily as he handed out commemorative T-shirts after the test.
I'll bet I know what the tee-shirts said. "My brother flushed more than 500 toilets and urinals, and all I got was this lousy tee-shirt."

I hope the Nationals realize it'll be a long time before I get over my bitterness about having been excluded from this.