EDITOR'S COLUMN: Navy Town flopped so try Toilet Town

What a coincidence. I return to town after a two-week vacation to discover that Oak Harbor has once again contracted with someone to come out with a plan to attract tourists. Cancel that contract, mayor. Thanks to my vacation I know what has to be done.

This year’s vacation took us to Long Beach, Wash., where we have gone off and on for many years, but apparently not since 1996. That’s when the town’s second set of public restrooms were built, as a sign above the entrance proudly proclaims. The new johns augment the first public restrooms attached to the police station just a block and a half up the street. One small town, two sets of public restrooms, and business was booming once it stopped raining. Coincidence? No way.

Whether it’s Long Beach, LaConner or Langley, the old adage about public restrooms and tourists has proven true: Build them, and they will come. The public loves restrooms so much that I’m beginning to think they’re a town’s main attraction.

In Langley, smiling families and friends walk together to the flower-festooned restrooms, looking like packs of canines on their way to a steak dinner. LaConner didn’t really become a tourist mecca until its restrooms were complete. And in Long Beach, home of the world’s largest frying pan, people pay no mind to the colossal clam cooker as they make a beeline to the restrooms.

Oak Harbor needs public restrooms downtown, but considering their popularity we should go far beyond that. Let’s become the Public Restroom Capital of the Northwest. After all, the mayor’s “Navy Town” idea flopped, probably because not many tourists relate to the Navy. But they all relate to going to the bathroom.

Turn every business on old Pioneer Way into a glorified restroom entrance, whose offerings are matched by the theme of the restrooms. The quilt restrooms can have quilted walls; the wild bird shop restroom can offer an aviary theme and chirping toilet seats; and the magic store restrooms can seemingly disappear when you most need them, only to reappear before disaster strikes. Inlay the jewelry shop toilets with all those “ite” bargains from the Home Shopping Network, and ink the seats in the rubber stamp shop.

Tourists will flock to the businesses just to see what kind of restrooms they offer, purchasing things on the way in and on the way out. Our businesses will get them coming and going.

Brag about our new Toilet Town theme. Scrap the old advertising slogan, “Do Nothing Here,” for “Do Something Here,” inscribed over an artist’s rendering of a toilet. The off-island advertising angles are endless:

“Oak Harbor, a great place to go; You’ll find relief in Oak Harbor; Oak Harbor, your bathroom away from home.”

With all those downtown restrooms, Oak Harbor will soon become the Northwest’s top tourist attraction and its citizens will all be flushed with pride.

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