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Beijing limits flies in public restrooms to 2

Beijing limits flies in public restrooms to 2

Posting in Cities

Fact is stranger than fiction. Fly trading scheme next, similar to carbon credits? Could Great Wall men's room sell its allocation to Forbidden City?

If you see this many flies in a Beijing restroom, call the police.

Once again, as I occasionally do, I'm wandering slightly off the energy beat here on SmartPlanet - but not entirely you'll see - to bring you something that's just too curious to pass up.

And after all, I've been diving into some intense nuclear power subjects lately (click on the link and you'll see plenty more nuclear offerings on thorium, fast breeders and such), and have already brought you a reasonably straight solar ditty today, so a little light entertainment seems in order.

With a 2-fly policy, Beijing could run some world class restrooms like the one above near Powys, Wales, which won 'Loo of the Year' in 1997 and still displays its plaque.

This falls into the fact is stranger than fiction category: Beijing is limiting the number of flies in public restrooms to 2, according to the BBC.

That's right, if you're a fly, and you're buzzing the toilets near Tiananmen Square, sorry, but 3 is a crowd. No strength in masses for you. Not very Maoist, but that's life in a modern, changing society.

This new rule, of course, begs the question: How on earth does someone count? Maybe "something" does the job - there's a potential follow-up story here about robots or sensors. Very SmartPlanet!

I picture Mr. Bean trapping a fly on a window ledge, dashing to a stall where he had spotted another, spinning awkwardly around to the hand-dryer and frantically trying to keep pace with a dozen of the tiny, winged blighters.

Practicality aside, this 2-fly limit actually carries financial potential. Here's where I dutifully return to my energy beat: Why not take a page from the CO2 business, and introduce a fly trading scheme?

The Great Wall men's room could sells its 2-pest allocation to, say, the Forbidden City. With the extra yuan, it could buy a multi-colored collection of urinal mints, helping it compete for the Toilet World championships, or somesuch.

Don't laugh - here in Britain, we have the Loo of the Year Awards. Such competition engenders progressive ideas for running public facilities. Why not take the aspirations global - especially during an Olympic year?

First, one child. Now two flies. Somehow I think this is another policy the rest of the world won't follow.

But I'll be back tomorrow following something more directly energy related - anything from nuclear reactors to light bulbs.

Photos: Fly montage from Alvesgaspar via Wikimedia. Loo of the Year from Mark Halper (the guy in the coat and tie below).

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure