Nieuws - 24 oktober 2011

Small pee-bag, big discussion

Two weeks ago Steve Jobs dominated the headlines of the Dutch media until the appearance of Travel John, a high-tech pee-bag introduced by Dutch National Railway (NS) to the bathroomless Sprintertrains. 'What a civilized solution!' was my spontaneous response to that news.

Pee-case? Maybe this is another alternative for the pee-bag
 My curiosity drove me to type 'Dutch train bag' in Google. To my surprise, it returned with about 129,000,000 results in 0.25 seconds. What was even more unexpected; most remarks were negative or sarcastic. Why did they reach such a contrary conclusion?
After skimming several articles, I found there were some plausible grounds for the grumbles: 'Who will benefit from these bags?' 'Is it applicable to women?' 'What kind of bags can they offer for the "big grocery"?' (What an excellent metaphor...) The usually light-hearted Dutch suddenly raised a pile of serious objections concerning gender discrimination, invasion of privacy and human dignity to bombard the decision makers of NS. 'Crazy!' is the unanimous comment from most Dutch I approached.
On one side I always appreciate the Dutch critical spirit, on the other hand I prefer 'to see is to believe' since I know the Netherlands is a nation of complainers. Last Saturday I tried the Sprinter from The Hague to Rotterdam. There were four trains in an hour, every train had a stop in around every five or six minutes. With such a high stop rate, I didn't see the necessity for toilets. The only embarrassment might be that not every stop is equipped with a toilet.
This Tuesday on the way back from Zeeland I encountered a small emergency. It took me half an hour to find a gas station. What if I just couldn't find a toilet? Then Mr. 'John Doe' might be a friend in need. As a Chinese, I'm afraid I still insist that something is better than nothing. In Chinese culture people are taught to 'reduce a big problem into a smaller one and make the smaller one into nothing', that is, to avoid any unnecessary argument, whereas the Dutch tend to do the other way around. There is no better-or-worse, it's always fun to look at the world through a prism.
Vid of the Week:
A quick-review of the pee-bag event in English