A couple uses showers at one of the newly-constructed beach bathrooms. (photo by Matthew Hynes)

There’s so much bad news in the world these days it’s no wonder there’s a malaise in the air. (Not to be confused with smog.) Let’s discuss the economy. Actually, since this is a humor column, let’s not.

In Afghanistan, in two months our military will have been fighting there for 10 years, what for I’m not exactly sure. Suddenly the subject of the economy isn’t so unappealing.

In Libya, it appears that dictator Col. Gaddafi’s final days are rapidly approaching. (Hopefully.) Gaddafi’s rumored to be hiding in Tripoli wearing a berka and disguised as a woman. (Muammar isn’t all that attractive as a man. To picture him as a woman gives me the creeps.)

Locally, our beloved Dodgers are currently hovering near last place. Being owned by Frank McCourt hasn’t helped. (Go to Facebook and type “Don’t Support McCourt.”) Perversely, I’m hoping that Clayton Kershaw wins the Cy Young Award and Matt Kemp is the league’s MVP as in history that’s never happened to a last place team.

But in these troubled times, at least I have some positive Santa Monica news, albeit not exactly “Nightline” material. Finally, after almost a year, our new public bathrooms at the beach are open, having cost city taxpayers a mere $4.1 million or more than $628,000 per. (Yikes!) I suppose, like everything else, even the cost of “going” has gone up.

In the name of accurate reporting, I advise a modicum of caution because the project (seven bathrooms and numerous showers) constructed by CWS Systems Inc. (which I pray is not a subsidiary of Halliburton) had numerous projected openings going back to this past Memorial Day.

When July 4th arrived and still no bathrooms, radical residents considered lighting the portable toilets as giant cherry bombs. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed. (No pun intended.)

Recently, due to water main and sewer lateral problems, (whatever that means) bathrooms have been opened in the morning and closed by lunch. The nearly year-long construction had residents wondering was CWS building bathrooms or pyramids?

Being an intrepid investigative reporter, today I took a test drive, so to speak. (Actually I was at the beach and had to use the bathroom.) So, like a restaurant critic of fine houses of cuisine, let me share with you my restroom ruminations. (Perhaps critiquing restaurants and restrooms require different skill sets.)

OK, here it goes. The new restrooms are spectacular. (A $4.4 million spectacular, that’s another column.) The old bathrooms were three decades old and had acquired a certain ambiance, if you recall. And sometimes the “patrons” weren’t always the most dignified of citizens, to be generous. Given a particular clientele the bathrooms often reminded me of the DMV without the eye charts.

Whereas the old bathrooms had open stalls making any sense of privacy impossible, the new restroom is divided into five, wheelchair-accessible separate stalls, lockable from the inside. In addition there’s a larger bathroom, one men’s and one women’s, marked “Family Restroom.” (The family that goes together stays together? Or perhaps one that at least doesn’t have to make a pit stop on their drive back to West Covina.)

I wrote this column in response to numerous readers who e-mailed furious about the excessive money and time the bathrooms had taken. (Not to mention the less than attractive porta-potties that dotted the boardwalk, but thankfully are gone.) That notwithstanding, I must give the bathrooms an enthusiastic 4.5 stars. (A half-star deduction because they didn’t replace the water fountains.)

Trying to end on a positive note about the new bathrooms, I leave you with those famous words from Luke 7:50, “Go in peace.” (Though, I don’t think that’s exactly the kind of “go” Luke had in mind.)

When Jack isn’t busy with his side job of reviewing bathrooms, or trying to start a movement to force Frank McCourt to sell the Dodgers, he can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.

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