How are Traffic Jams a lot like Public Toilets?

The two Scenarios:
What can they possibly have in common, except for the fact that you are sitting down on your booty? Think again, these two scenarios will probably leave you feeling bitter the rest of the day.

Getting stuck in bad traffic is never pleasant for road users, especially when one is rushing for a meeting or an important dinner appointment. What makes it worse is when you realise the situation is not half as bad as it seems and is just a small diversion ahead, after which everyone speeds off.

From the troubles on the tar, we move to the terrors hiding behind cubicle doors. When your stomach starts to hurt and you are semi-dashing for the only available cubicle in the nearest restroom, the last thing you wish to face is a waste-massacred seat. Do you wait for the next available stall or attempt to clean up the mess?

Both options look dire as nature comes knocking impatiently at your door. Definitely a painful predicament as the first bead of perspiration breaks on your forehead and you can hardly hold yourself together. Ugh.

Now that we have seen how these two scenarios with seemingly no relation having a common denominator: a mood-spoiler, this is a situation you would rather do without in your day.

Outlining the very core of this problem:
When users perceive themselves as individuals, they tend to put their own interests and benefits at the forefront, more often than not disregarding the concerns of other users. The best-case scenario for such situation, as stipulated by game theory’s zero-sum game, someone will have to lose out for that individual’s gain. But there are far more instances when the best-case scenario does not occur, and the situation turns out far worse than the collective sum of each user’s selfish act.

On the road, with everyone trying to rush, it may eventually lead to an accident making matters worse. The users involved in the accident will have to spend time going through the necessary paperwork for insurance claims and so on. Other users will experience slower traffic with lesser open road space to navigate and weave their cars through. Even without an accident, the fight to get ahead of others inevitably results in more hold-ups. All in all, everyone suffers.

For the pearly white seats, making a mess is extremely inconsiderate. It also normally results in lingering odours and may leave an unpleasant environment for other users. However, how does it affect the individual user? Imagine yourself as a user dirtying a cubicle, and having to return to the same restroom only to find the same cubicle you soiled earlier. Next, you have to figure out the best way of using the unpleasant cubicle, your very own doing. If every user uses the toilet without any consideration, this will no doubt end up becoming an unbearable experience for all.

Tackling both problems with a specific common denominator:
Users have to stop thinking of themselves as individual users fighting for their own benefit, but as part of a larger community and a continuous process that not only affects others but also them. This solution was identified when the team was ideating and developing the concept for “Future Toilets”.

A submission done up for a NUHS competition, dubbed “Future Toilets”, looked to tackle the labour intensive nature of maintaining clean and pleasant toilets. During the ideation and development phase, the team realised mindsets of users played a significant role in the state of toilets. Implementing a system capable of changing users’ mindsets complemented the technology put in place help to reduce the man-hours required to maintain toilets.

When users re-frame their mindset in such a manner, the probability of them carrying out actions motivated by personal benefits is significantly reduced. All they need is a little nudging and priming. Having a sense of community solidarity here is not so much for altruistic reasons but for personal gains. When it dawns on users that by putting the community interest first, it will alleviate the situation for everyone and most importantly, themselves.

For traffic jams, if everyone gave way and took turns to converge into the available lanes, everyone will be able to get through the bad traffic much more quickly, keeping the delay minimal. As for the toilets, everyone would prefer clean and comfortable conditions to answer nature’s call. Such incentives should be allow people to see that it is very much for their own comfort instead of some self-sacrificing act on their part.

Hence, if all users did their own small part and be considerate, everyone will have an enjoyable experience.

Let’s do our part in ensuring our own booties do not suffer!

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