And Oh! The Towels!

GLEAMING fixtures and spotless towels have their rewards. The admiring comments of guests, for instance. Or in England the ``Loo of the Year'' award. Judges assess the merits of 1,500 public facilities in choosing a winner. Maintenance, function, beauty - all enter in. They look for a cloakroom (this is England, remember) that aspires to the ``highest standards.'' This year the prize went to the gentlemen's room at the Savoy Hotel.

The judges fairly gushed with praise: ``A busy, well-run loo - on the ground floor, with continuous, very competent supervision. In addition to the basic amenities, which are of a high standard, an unusually full range of ancillary facilities is provided.''

It sounds the epitome of British gentility - a universe away from the utilitarian washrooms Americans are used to. The current exchange rate may hold some middle-class travelers at bay for now. But when that eases up and Americans see how the public ought to be served, gas station and hotel proprietors back home can expect complaints about another area where the overseas competition is way ahead.

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