It's the nation's grossest national product: Americans collectively produce an estimated 39.4 billion pounds annually.
That's 108 million pounds each day, 4.5 million pounds every hour. And in the fifteen minutes or so it will take to read and digest this expertly written piece of cutting-edge journalism, Americans will pass an additional million or so pounds of the stuff.
Poop, that is.
But for one man, at least, Miami Beach resident William Kercher III, these staggering statistics won't send spasmic shock waves through the sphincter. See, Kercher is more familiar than almost anyone with bowel-related discourse and the world's porcelain burial chambers. In fact he's been a certified expert on all things dump-related for the past decade in his role as chief crapper consultant (and CEO) for the Website Crappers Quarterly (CQ).
The shaggy-haired, blue-eyed University of Miami communications grad is quick to point out, however, that he's neither obsessed with ass nor enthralled by excrement. Rather his avocation was born of a joke. It all began in 1997, when Kercher and a few guys including a former business partner he wouldn't name were hanging out at a friend's house in Miami. "We were a bunch of guys sitting around talking shit, literally. We were goofing off about how funny it would be to make a magazine about toilets you know, safe and clean places to go."
At the time, the era of the Internet was dawning, so Kercher and company started assembling an online periodical. "I was working as a Web designer," he explains, "so I put together the site on the side. It was a hobby, something fun."
Thus began his quest to uncover the world's darkest, dirtiest, daintiest, and most delightful places to poop. "If I say I'm going to do something," he states boldly, "then I'm the kind of guy that will do it." To ensure he wouldn't be recognized or treated specially by bathroom attendants, he adopted a pseudonym: The Mystery Crapper (TMC).
Next he drew up a strict set of rules and a scoring system. Each entry would ideally be accompanied by a snapshot (preferably pre-bowel movement). Ratings were to be on a scale of one to five toilet paper rolls. Criteria would include cleanliness, privacy, user-friendliness, and facilities. A five-roller would be "a king of thrones," a one-roller "for emergency purposes only," Kercher says.
With the criteria firmly in place, TMC traveled in search of worthy water closets. Soon there were dozens of entries on the Website 32 in London alone. "At one time I had a media-relations business and I used to travel a lot," Kercher asserts. "I'd find myself with a lot of free time, so I'd visit a few places and post them online."
During the past ten years, TMC has tested his pooping prowess all over the world. A number one spot for a number two, he says, is the British Houses of Parliament, which he deemed a "good place to go and do your business of state." He subtracted points, however, because of an hour or two wait. TMC also journeyed to Trump Towers in New York City: "You would think that The Donald would offer a tremendous crapper in keeping with his reputation and lavish style," he wrote. "We are sorry to disappoint you."
In addition, CQ invited others to share their excremental experiences. One of them, a reviewer identified only as Darren, sent word of a shit-shack near the top of Mount Fuji: "At 9000 feet up, I managed to find this little wooden hut perched precariously on the side of the path. How do them Europeans/Easterners shit over a hole in the floor? In fact how did I do it? Hard work. I thought the rickety thing was gonna fall down the mountain." He scored it zero TP rolls.
Not content to accept Darren's description, Patrick from New Orleans went undercover to investigate: "It took me four and a half hours to climb, and the only place to go up there was this wooden shack with a hollowed-out floor that went down probably eight to ten feet. I heard a very loud humming ... all the flies that were down this hole under where I was crapping. But the absolute worst thing was the smell." He also granted a zero rating.
Then there's the square toilet in Kuta, Bali, described by someone named Christian. He gave it a three-roll rating but apparently didn't like it much: "I have never met anyone with a square ass," he commented. And there's the anonymous reviewer who encouraged folks who might find themselves in Tolka, Nepal, to do their business at the Excellent View Guest House, because a shitter was "white porcelain with foot placements on either side ... a classic Nepal outhouse."
The site also includes "Crapping 101: Guidelines for Courteous Crapping," which Kercher added to improve the average pooper's code of conduct. Here he lists advice on when to courtesy-cough and describes why talking is a no-no: "Skilled crappers wear undistinguishable footwear so others will not be able to make positive identifications by looking at the shoes under the stall." And then there's a glossary of turds, which includes The Armageddon, defined as "when you are dropping a deuce so big and wide that you think it's the end of the world," and The Snake: "When your turd is so long you don't know whether to flush it or whack it with a shovel."
Today Kercher claims TMC fields hundreds of e-mails each month from reviewers all over the world. His hometown of Miami has a special place on the site, though.
Churchill's, located at 5501 NE Second Ave., receives zero for cleanliness and one roll overall. TMC warns patrons to beware of three things: "Don't eat the food, don't wander too far, and don't crap."
Manni White, a lanky, weathered creature in a grubby white T-shirt, fell through the doorway of the bathroom on a recent Tuesday evening while fumbling for his car keys. "I'd rather take my chances behind the bushes," he joked. "I fucking love this place, but they're right don't take a crap there; something might reach up and bite your ass."
An equally inebriated Peter Bates was quick to defend the beloved watering hole: "If they start making everything posh, the place wouldn't be same," he jibed. "If you don't like it, don't use it. The liquor is cheap who cares about the loo?"
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Lincoln Road's Van Dyke Café, on the other hand, reaps a three-roll rating, an almost craptastic score. According to CQ: "Restrooms are well appointed and private," complete with "handicrapping, accessible by using an elevator."
"The bathrooms are very clean, yes," noted Consuela, a patron who not-so-gracefully declined to give New Times her surname. "But I don't think I want to discuss what I did in there. Some things a lady likes to keep to herself."
Among the city's highest-ranked crappers are the facilities at Doral Golf Resort and Spa (a Marriott Resort), which boasts an overall four-roll rating, and North Miami Beach's Ale House, which comes up slightly behind with a three and a half.
"How can you beat good food, cold beer, and clean and private crappers?" TMC asks. "No more needs be said."