By Anthony Pignataro
Kohler, which has been making bathtubs and bathroom appliances since about 1883, has a new toilet that will quite possibly take your breath away. Called Numi, the toilet “marks a new standard of excellence in the bathroom,” according to the company.
At first glance, it’s just a sharp, if slightly irregularly shaped, white box that you could easily find on the set of Star Trek. But it’s a toilet–one that features motion senses that raise and lower the lid on its own, feet-warming vents, a retractable bidet that includes both “multiple options for water spray pattern” and a heated air dryer, a deodorizer, a heated seat, illuminated panels, speakers and a plug-in for your MP3 player as well as touchscreen controls that allow up to six user presets. Prices vary, but most outlets I’ve found sell Numi for $4,792.50.
I’ve told you about Numi, the very pinnacle of the Great Toilet Pyramid, so you’d understand some context of how I spent the last couple of weeks. Toilets–and by extension, the restrooms that enclose them–can be clean, functional and even pleasant. While most people even in this country, which still somehow enjoys a higher standard of living per capita than any other in the world, can’t afford to install Numi in their home, they can still, er, relieve themselves of any excess baggage in a comfortable environment.
Now the County of Maui’s public parks? Not so much. This is despite the county’s park maintenance budget (which we all pay for) pulling in about $3 million a year for the last few years.
Structurally, most public park bathrooms are the same. Most are built with cinder block walls; most are open at the top, allowing free (and often chilly) ventilation. They are strictly functional constructions–tile floors and simple sinks, mostly. Stall doors (where available) were often simply pieces of wood (painted repeatedly to hide graffiti) that opened and closed with the help of a heavy spring.
As part of a research project that was certainly eye-opening, I conducted spot checks of the public restrooms at 17 of the county’s parks. While some of the restrooms were clean, others were decidedly–and disgustingly–not.
Few of the restrooms I visited had soap dispensers; none had hot water–the easiest method of killing bacteria when washing hands. Toilet tissue was pretty uniform, but paper towels were rare. Paper sanitary sheets for toilet seats were, as I expected, non-existent. As for the toilets themselves, they ranged from spotless to overflowing with residue from previous visits.
What follows are the notes from my expedition to Maui’s backside. Proceed with caution.
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Hanakao‘o Beach Park
Locals call this place “Canoe Beach,” and the restroom pavilion is on a small bluff with great vistas of Lanai and Ka‘anapali. On my visit, my nose caught a strong odor of urine long before I got inside. Like most beach park restrooms, there was plenty of wet sand on the floor. The sinks, though clean, lacked soap dispensers and paper towels. Also, the handle on one of the urinals seemed to have been jury-rigged with wire.
Malu Ulu Olele Park
That the County of Maui refers to the restrooms at this park on Front Street in Lahaina as “comfort stations” is beyond laughable. You know the restroom in that first Saw picture? That place is the Four Seasons compared to this place. People on the nearby sidewalk can smell the stench of urine emanating from inside, which looks like it was last cleaned when Nixon was president. Oh, and the men’s room features an actual urinal trough. I’m pretty sure the accused terrorists in Guantanamo have better restroom facilities than this dump.
Honokowai Beach Park
Not to get too graphic here, but one of the toilets in this restroom was simply not usable. It had been used–that was very clear–but touching any surface inside, to say nothing of the toilet handle, was clearly asking for trouble. Heaven help anyone on the beach (and it was pretty crowded the day I went) who found the need to go.
Launiupoko Beach Park
Go here if you want to see an old-style urinal that runs clear down to the floor. The layout inside was curious, with two large stalls, separated by doors, that each contain a sink. It’s kind of nice, but when one stall doesn’t have any toilet paper (as was the case here), it’s gonna cause problems. For that reason, you might want to try the portable toilets they have outside–one of which is massive.
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The restrooms near the ball fields were pretty clean, though one toilet was filled with paper. The restrooms in the main park were also clean, but both facilities lacked soap dispensers and paper towels.
Sigh. Who builds restrooms without stall doors? The people who put together the facilities at Kam I! Look, I can deal with sinks that only have cold water and no soap or paper towels, but putting a door–even just a piece of plywood–on the stall has got to be some sort of priority.
Okay, forget what I said about Kam I–that place is paradise compared to Kam II. This place not only lacks a stall door, but a stall wall as well. Let me be clear: the restroom has a sink, urinal (low flow) and toilet, all in the same room with no partitions whatsoever. Oh, and did I mention that there’s not actually a front door, either? You could just walk in and see some guy with his pants around his ankles, staring up at you with a look frozen between fear and embarrassment. Are you kidding me?
Located just down the street from the travesties known as Kam I and Kam II, Kam III features a new restroom building that’s everything you want in a public restroom. The stalls not only have doors, but they have light doors that move easily and latch securely. Of course there’s no soap or paper towels, but the toilets have actual privacy! Rejoice!
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UPCOUNTRY / NORTH SHORE
4th Marine Division Park
This sprawling Haiku park, which during World War II was the home of the 4th Marine Division when it wasn’t out assaulting the Marianas and Iwo Jima, has pretty mediocre restrooms. The toilet had some kind of hazy green film in it, and the sinks lacked both paper towels and soap.
Hookipa Beach Park
Most county restrooms don’t have mirrors. But this one had dulled metal plates. Guess it’s cool, but whatever. There also wasn’t any soap or paper towels, which make getting your hands clean kind of a challenge.
These restrooms looked fairly new, with gray stall doors. The toilets and urinals were clean and there were plenty of paper towels, but no soap.
Harold Rice Park
First off, the restrooms here offer some of the best views on the entire island. Stand in front of the restroom pavilion, and you can easily see both coasts of Maui. But inside, it was a disaster: no soap and paper towels and a toilet full of solid material that hadn’t been flushed in who knows how long.
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These restrooms are large, with lots of sinks and stalls. The place was mostly clean, but there was fresh graffiti on one stall door. There was also a large, green insect of some kind perched on the trash can near the door. Cool!
There was no odor here, but the toilets were less than clean. At least there wasn’t any paper on the floor.
Keopuolani Regional Park
There are a variety of restroom pavilions in this 110-acre park, all of which lacked soap dispensers. In the restrooms over by the baseball fields, the paper towel dispenser in the men’s room was empty. The restrooms by the kids’ playground equipment were fine. Those overlooking the MACC were also lacking paper towels.
The good news is the restroom features a low-flow urinal. The bad news is that there was soiled paper on the floor of the toilet stall.
Kanaha Beach Park
These restrooms, with exterior walls covered in brightly painted images of fish, were a pleasant surprise. Sure, there was a lot of water on the floor–there’s a changing station inside. But the toilet was clean. Most surprising of all, there was a bar of soap–an actual bar of actual soap–at the sink.
About Anthony Pignataro
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He started work as MauiTime's Editor in 2003, took a couple years off starting in 2008, then returned to the staff in 2011. He's the author of "Stealing Cars With The Pros," a 2013 collection of his journalism and the Maui novels "Small Island" (2011) and "The Dead Season" (2012)–all of which were published by Event Horizon Press. In 2014, his one-act play "War Stories" won second place in the Maui Fringe Festival.