There are reviews for restaurants, books, music, movies, cars and electronics.
So why not rate 5-star powder rooms and 2-star johns?
“Macon Bathroom Reviews” might not be the most glamorous topic or sanitary subject, but a group of Stratford Academy students have been toiling over toilets since late January, showing the world there’s more than one way to come out of a water closet.
Andrew Moring and Noah Fenimore are a couple of seniors in the Class of 2019 and former students of mine in creative writing. Noah is a talented musician — he plays the drums — and Andrew is gifted in technology and mechanics. He practically can take apart a Jeep and put it back together blindfolded, with one hand tied behind his back.
These two young men will be walking across the stage of the City Auditorium for graduation May 24 and are bound for Georgia College in Milledgeville in the fall.
Their recreational claim to fame over the past few months has been posting video reviews of bathrooms. Their light-hearted looks at local lavatories has attracted more than 1,300 “Macon Bathroom Reviews’’ followers on Instagram.
What started as a goofy diversion from the stresses of their senior year has become their personal call of … er, doody.
Noah and Andrew borrowed the concept from another group of local high school students who posted Macon food reviews with a touch of humor — like walking into a McDonald’s wearing tuxedos.
It wasn’t until Noah was eating Chinese food with fellow seniors Stephen Grubb and Alex Buehler at Mandarin on Riverside Drive four months ago that the latrine inspection patrol was swiftly deployed.
“I mentioned the idea to them, and they thought it was funny,’’ Noah said. “They said we should do it right then, and we did. We went into the bathroom. We left and got into Stephen’s car. I put my (camera) phone on the dashboard and we started recording.’’
Soon, Andrew, Noah, Stephen and Alex began visiting restrooms not simply as a necessity … but as an opportunity. When folks began requesting a female’s perspective, they recruited junior Riley Davis. That completed a Royal Flush, so to speak, with occasional guest appearances from a cast of characters in the back seat.
They checked out the facilities at Kohl’s, Jeneane’s, Krystal, Cook Out, Walmart, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Papa John’s and the Mercer library. At the Sadie Hawkins Dance in February, they probed the potties at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. They grew their Instagram audience to the point that, by the time they finally made a pit stop at a local Chick-fil-A, several of the employees recognized them.
They even ventured into enemy territory, so to speak. They managed to infiltrate the boys bathrooms at rival schools Tattnall Square and FPD.
They examine everything from cleanliness to lighting to the spacing between urinals. Paper towels or air dryers? High volume or low maintenance?
“Personally, I want to know about the safety,’’ Andrew said. “I’m looking for things like, how slick is the floor? Do they have a P.A. system and fire alarm? Is there good lighting and ventilation? I wouldn’t say I’m looking for the creature comforts, but they are things that are important.’’
As spokeswoman for the team, Riley obviously critiques the ladies room through a different lens.
“I look for nice aesthetic, high-quality utilities, but most importantly cleanliness,’’ she said. “My favorite bathroom we have reviewed so far would have to be at the Walmart on Zebulon Road.’’
Noah said the teens rarely shoot video in the restrooms, so as not to creep out other guests. One exception was at a Burger King, where the door on the stall was below eye level, and they wanted to document the oddity.
“We had to wait almost 30 minutes for a time when nobody was in there because we didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable,’’ he said.
WMAZ-TV recently did a recent feature on the Macon Bathroom Reviews, and the exposure was good for business, almost doubling their number of followers on Instagram. They’re already up to Season 2, Episode 8, although “live streaming” (no pun intended) isn’t exactly available. They sign off every episode with “Smell you next time!”
Andrew keeps a spreadsheet with the rankings. And, of course, viewers understand there are times when beggars can’t be choosy. When you gotta go, you gotta go. You either pull over at the next exit or find the nearest bush.
While she enjoys spending time with her friends and having a good time, Riley regards her contributions to Macon Bathroom Reviews as a public service. “My main reason for being a part of MBR is giving back to my community and informing my fellow Maconites about the best and worst places for a restroom stop,’’ she said.
The experience has made Noah and Andrew observe bathrooms in a different light.
“Now, when I walk into a restroom and start looking around, I see all these different aspects,’’ Andrew said. “It’s like, wow, this is what it’s like to actually appreciate a bathroom.’’
Said Noah: “It’s impossible for me to go into a bathroom now without thinking we could review it.’’
They are considering expanding into new territory when they head off to Georgia College in the fall.
So, watch out, Milledgeville, the potty patrol may be coming soon to a bathroom near you.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.