I am obsessed with toilets.

Whenever I travel to a new country, I look forward to seeing their public facilities.

I’ve seen luxury lounges in Dubai, technological wonders in the US and nature-themed creations in Malaysia. I was so excited when Dyson’s 10-second hand dryer was introduced to public toilets. I gleefully tried one.

I’m interested for 2 reasons.

Firstly, they’ve always been a haven – the one place in the world where I can be completely alone and take refuge from the world. Sometimes I go to the ladies’ room during meetings just to catch a breath.

Secondly, public lavatories provide tells me whether a Government cares for its people.

You see, toilets are not really an essential service for many countries. They are a nice-to-have. So when you see well maintained public facilities, they tell you a lot. They indicate that Government has done the basics and is now concentrating on beautifying value-adds. After all, you can’t have great public loos in the first place without running water.

Public toilets signals that officials care about convenience, health, dignity and quality of life. In many countries, these places double as baby changing stations, so properly outfitted toilets show thoughtfulness and respect for motherhood. The attitude of the staff who clean the facilities also provides insight into the nation’s work ethic.

I am equally fascinated by dead bodies.

I study how governments treat their dead, especially anonymous bodies left on the streets or deceased members of the armed forces. How they are handled communicates the premium nations place on life. Are people largely expendable? Does the government care about the distress and anguish families feel over their lost ones? Does the country mourn the loss of its soldiers? Does it accord dignity and honour to the sacrifices of men-at-arms? And for John Does, are reports filed by the Police and cases investigated, in the hope that families may one day find closure?

We may think these things don’t matter but toilets and the dead are my two key measures of a nation’s quality-of-life and the premium the government places on its citizens.

Public toilets signal that the government officials care about convenience, health, dignity and quality of life. Click To Tweet