How S’pore won 'the war on piss' & cleaned up urine-soaked HDB lifts

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In 1997, a 36-year-old man found himself trapped in a lift at Henderson Drive.

He had answered the call of nature and, thanks to the lift's urine detection device, found himself in a stalled cabin with no choice but to wait for authorities to free him from his puddle of shame.

This scenario now seems mundane.

It's a given that lift urination would most likely lead to a stuck lift and a not-insignificant fine.

However, this wasn't always the case.

Man's inhumanity to man

In 1971, an absolutely harrowing tale was published in The Straits Times.

The forum letter writer, "Simply Frusting", had gotten stuck in a lift at an HDB block. To make the name shorter and more thematically relevant, we will be calling "Simply Frusting", Peeter.

According to Peeter, the six-by-four lift was mostly covered in urine and faeces — not an uncommon scenario in the 70s.

Three-quarters of the floor was Peeter's conservative estimate.

So Peeter set off to work mashing all the buttons, but still, the lift didn't budge.

Undaunted, Peeter concentrated on the only viable button in the lift.

The alarm bell.

While the alarm did go off, no one seemed to hear it.

One reason proposed was that the alarm bell was located IN the elevator shaft. So while it was ringing real clear for Peeter, those who weren't stuck in the shaft didn't catch it.

Fearful that the monotony of the fire alarm would not make it clear that someone was stuck in the lift, Peeter started pressing the button in an SOS code (. . . _ _ _ . . .)

No good.

Peeter was still stuck in a faeces and urine-stained cabin.

Other less sophisticated methods like kicking and hitting the lift door were also doled out plentifully to no avail.

The alarm gave in before Peeter did. Two hours into his ordeal, the alarm started to peter (haha) off.

It would be five more hours before someone would come to rescue him from this urine-and-faeces encasement.

In Peeter's own words, it was seven hours of inhaling "man's inhumanity to man".

Urine a different tim...

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