Who is this so-called guru?
I'm Bob Cromwell. A Yahoo review referred to me as "the Indiana Jones (and Ansel Adams) of latrines." I'm not a plumber, just a sometimes-traveler with a camera and curiousity. What I do is consulting, writing, and teaching on Linux, networking, and cybersecurity. The toilet pictures were just a prank, originally just one page in the collection of travel pages. I split the toilet picture collection off onto its own site in 2010.
A guru? Really?
It's purely a self-appointed title! There is no formal sanctioning body.
Am I obsessed with toilets?
No! I'm just willing to admit that I find the topic somewhat interesting. I've taken lots of other travel pictures. When you travel off the beaten path, it doesn't take long until the question comes up. "Well, you know, how did you, well, when you had to, well, uh, what was it like?" So here are pictures I have taken of toilets I have encountered.
So why a site just on toilets?
I have Google AdSense ads on this and my main site. Google scans the pages with AdSense ads, attempting to automatically figure out what they're about and serve up relevant ads. It had concluded that most of my site was about plumbing, as that was the topic most commonly leading to searches for my overall site, so almost all the pages got plumbing-oriented pages. People interested in travel or computer operating systems or secure networking aren't interested in portable outhouses or cleaning solutions or the other things appearing in plumbing-related ads.
But a site about toilets, I must be obsessed, right?
I don't see it that way, I'm just the guy with a silly site that spun off a collection of travel pictures.
I regularly get messages from people saying "I have spent the last four hours reading about toilets on your web site, and I would like to know why you are so obsessed."
Excuse me? You just spent how long reading about toilets? And you think I am fixated on the topic?
How Did This Get Started?
In the mid 1990s I had a single page on a Purdue University server. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine lets you see what that looked like as far back as January 17, 1999.
My cromwell-intl.com domain appeared in September, 2001, although the Wayback Machine didn't notice its one Toilets of the World page until January 17, 2002. Some time soon after that I split it into categories, and the collection has grown ever since.
In December, 2010 I registered the toilet-guru.com domain and moved the pages to a dedicated server.
What is it like to be a toilet guru?
In 2014 I did some Linux consulting for Merrill Lynch at their large facility outside Trenton, New Jersey. I had most of one afternoon free, and in the year leading up to that I had received messages from several people telling me that I should track down Adolf Hitler's toilet which was in an auto repair shop in a nearby small town. The German state yacht was scrapped in New Jersey after World War II. It was partially disassembled and various portholes, teak decking, and internal fixtures including at least one toilet and sink were sold to area residents. The toilet and sink were installed in a local garage.
It was interesting to see, not that it was very unusual on its own but it certainly was an unexpected place to find such a connection to history. But the most interesting thing was talking to the guy who came to own Hitler's toilet by accident. He simply purchased a garage when its owner was retiring, the relic came with the building.
He likes working on cars, that's what he does and he's good at it. People from all around the world come to his garage to see the toilet, and that mostly just amuses him. There are surplus parts from Hitler's yacht all around the small town, why do people come from Japan, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere to see the toilet?
A U.K. television show flew him and the toilet and sink to London. Free airfare, free shipping for the fixtures, and a week in a hotel in London. It wasn't until then that he realized that it had never been properly bolted down, it was simply cemented to the floor.
The television show hosts obsessed about this, asking why he hadn't properly bolted it down. It was that way when he bought the garage, and it worked, so there was no reason to pay any further attention to it. Then they demanded an explanation for why, if it was working, had he removed it and ultimated needed to replace it with a modern fixture. This question was from the very people who had invited him on the free week in London if he unfastened it and brought it along.
This was all very familiar to me.
I have a silly web site on which I make a little ad revenue. Someone else comes along and spends hours looking at the pictures and reading the text. Maybe they're a reporter for the BBC or a major newspaper in the U.S. or U.K., and they decide this is an appropriate topic for a detailed article. They then immediately demand that I explain why I am obsessed with the topics.
Can the Toilet Guru recommend any toilet meditation techniques?
No, not especially.
The important thing is to use whatever works for you.
I was described by Yahoo as:
We've all been there. Nature calls and the only answer is a toilet with more levers, switches, and buttons than Wile E. Coyote's latest invention. What to do? If you're Bob Cromwell, the answer is obvious: You take a picture. Dedicated to the man and the latrines he's dared to use, Toilets of the World features photos and captions from Bob's many encounters with the cryptic, the seatless, and the downright weird. During his travels through Russia, East Asia, and South America, Bob never met a commode he didn't want to remember. From an Ottoman-era throne of a more modest variety to a hole-in-the-ground kind enough to offer tips on feet placement, you're bound to gain a quick appreciation for Bob, the Indiana Jones (and Ansel Adams) of latrines.