Sloped Toilet Seats Are Here to Boost Your Productivity and Break Your Spirit

Vicheslav/iStock via Getty Images
Vicheslav/iStock via Getty Images

There's nothing glamorous about locking yourself in the corner stall of your office bathroom to scroll for a few minutes in peace, but it can be necessary for getting through a tough work day. Your boss can catch you watching YouTube on your work computer, or chide you for taking an extra-long lunch break, but they can't kick you off the commode. So, as WIRED reports, an English toilet manufacturer has come up with the next best thing: They've designed a toilet that becomes uncomfortable to sit on after a few minutes, with the goal of boosting worker productivity.

The new product from StandardToilet features a seat that slopes downward at a 13° angle. That makes it impossible to use without straining your leg muscles slightly, and the longer you sit, the more uncomfortable it gets. After about five minutes of use, sitting becomes unpleasant and you're forced to return to your desk where you'll probably start looking up new job listings right away.

“Its main benefit is to the employers, not the employee, StandardToilet founder Mahabir Gill told WIRED. "It saves the employer money."

But it's hard to see what concrete effects the design would have beyond killing morale. U.S. workers reached historically high levels of productivity this year—all while working longer hours and for less pay. An uncomfortable toilet seat probably won't do much to raise productivity beyond where it's at already, but it may saddle companies with lawsuits for violating rules protecting disabled employees. Activists have already accused the design of discriminating against workers who require longer bathroom breaks.

Imposing physical limits on bathroom usage would also eliminate one of the last truly private places in the modern workplace. Open offices have become the norm, even though they're almost certainly worse for productivity than access to a level toilet seat is. According to 2016 study, 53 percent of employees feel less productive when they have to work through ambient noise.

For now, the toilets are just the latest target of the internet's ridicule, but you could start seeing them in the real world soon. The toilets are now retailing for between $200 and $650.

[h/t WIRED]

Why Some Lines in the Road Are Yellow and Others Are White

Gang Zhou, iStock via Getty Images
Gang Zhou, iStock via Getty Images

Even if you can't explain the significance behind every color and symbol used in road signs, you may understand them on a subconscious level. That's why the designs are chosen in the first place: Our brains associate colors with certain feelings, and on the road, a symbol's ability to communicate danger in less time than it takes to read a word could mean the difference between life and death.

This was taken into consideration when the federal government standardized the markings used to separate traffic lanes in 1971. Today the lines are painted in two colors: White for when both traffic lanes are traveling in the same direction and yellow for when they're not. The distinction is meant to prevent accidents, but it took years to convince officials that it was the right choice.

Edward Hines designed the first modern centerline for a road in the early 1900s. He made it white, inspired by spilled milk he once saw on a freshly paved road, and that color remained the default for decades. By 1955, most states used white stripes to divide their traffic lanes. The one exception was Oregon. The state insisted that yellow was a better way to signal caution—a claim the rest of the country didn't buy. Oregon ultimately agreed to change its centerlines to white when the government threatened to withhold $300 million in highway funding.

By 1971, the people in charge of standardizing highway symbols had come around to Oregon's point of view. The case for yellow as the color for caution was stronger than ever: It had been implemented in stoplights as the signal for slow and it was even the color of stop signs in the early 20th century.

But not every centerline needed to come with such a strong warning. While the color of lines separating parallel traffic flow remained white, yellow was used as a buffer between cars driving in the opposite directions—in other words, the lines that are most dangerous to cross. That rule in the 1971 edition of the Manual of Uniform Control Devices for Streets and Highways is still standard today.

Many road sign features, like the green in interstate signs, have interesting origin stories. Here are more facts about the roads you take every day.

[h/t Reader's Digest]

The Reason Escalator Stairs Are Grooved

Thanks to the escalator stairs' grooves, these feet are not in danger.
Thanks to the escalator stairs' grooves, these feet are not in danger.
ananaline/iStock via Getty Images

The thin metal grooves in escalator stairs might make the entire structure look extra dangerous, but they’re actually there for your safety.

As George R. Strakosch writes in The Vertical Transportation Handbook, the steps are cleated “so that people who ride with their toes against the riser will not have their soft shoe soles drawn between the steps as the steps straighten out.”

In other words, the grooves allow ascending steps to merge into a flat surface at the top of the escalator with minimal space between them. That way, the edge of a flip-flop or a runaway plastic bag won’t get sucked into the structure. According to Reader’s Digest, the (often yellow) strips of hardware with comb-like metal teeth that run along the top and bottom edges of escalators are there for the same reason. As the stairs disappear back into the depths of the escalator, these aptly named comb plates keep out anything that shouldn’t go with them.

Since escalator technology isn’t quite advanced enough to have comb plates toss that trash into the nearest garbage can, it’s still up to us to dispose of any litter a comb plate has pushed aside. But the most important part is that it’s been barred from entering the underbelly of the machine, where it could cause the escalator to break down.

The grooves also prevent liquids from pooling on the surface of the stairs, making escalators puddle-free—and possibly even safer than a regular set of stairs, at least on a rainy day.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]