A Royal Flush : Happy World Toilet Day
Apparently, today is World toilet day. Did you get a Hallmark card wishing you “Happy number two”? Neither did I but it had me thinking about my toilet experiences around the world.
Let’s start off with the culture shock a westerner will get when you go to places that literally have a hole in the ground. I recall one cafe in Amsterdam having a hole that you’d need the skill of a WWII bombardier to get your aim right. It was better than a bucket but still, it was not what one expects especially after you’d indulged in their herbal products and you’re not too steady on your feet.
Another culture shock is toilet paper : Not all of them flush it away. Many places around the world don’t want the paper in their water system and expect you to put it in the trash which as you can imagine, now stinks. When in such places, you don’t hang around too long to read a book.
That is assuming you even have toilet paper. In some places such as Middle East and India, using toilet paper is considered unhygienic. The protocol is to wash your backside with your left hand from a cup of water. Afterwards you wash your hand. This is also why you should only eat with your right hand in India. The left is considered ‘dirty’ so careful what you use it for.
At the other end of the toilet spectrum is Japan. Going to the potty can be like the Apollo project. It is a delight to stay in a 5 star hotel in Tokyo just to experience the high tech toilets. They have ones that automatically put a new paper cover over the seat before you sit down. Others may warm the seat for you or play background music so people cannot your movements. Some include built in bidets but good luck in understanding which button does what.
As for toilet paper. Would you believe that many public toilets in Japan did not provide toilet paper until recently: They expected you to carry your own. It may still be the case today in some places but many department stores gave them out for free. For more reading Japan and their toilets, see this Japantoday poll and Japan-talk.
The rest of Asia is also catching up with their obsession with their toilets. When recently in Taipei, I was taken aback by the cleanliness of the public toilet. Look at this, they even had plants in there. By the way, the women cleaners will just walk in so you bladder shy men are pre-warned.
Lets move to the US. Like many things in life, there are some bizarre things when it comes to the US toilets habits:
- They don’t like talking about them. So much so that toilets aren’t even called toilets. They are restrooms or bathrooms. It is the room that cannot be mentioned.
- In bars or restaurants, they will often minimize the numbers to the legally bare minimum. Even then, they may be tiny.
- The doors are never full length doors. You will always find a gap at bottom and top and even at bottom of the stalls themselves. Perhaps this is for US Politicians to play footsie with fellow crappers but us Roaman emperors have never understood why you cannot get full privacy.
- Public restrooms especially off main highways are nasty. It is always a pleasant surprise to come across a public restroom that is well kept. In Texas, one memorable place well maintained place in Guadalupe County rest stop just west of Seguin on I10. . Colorado County rest stop near Columbus Texas,on the other hand is more basic. Heaven forbid you need to use to use the crapper here as they don’t even come up to chest height. Most people in Texas will stop at Buc-ees instead where Buc-ees are known for their clean toilet facilities so much so, they win awards for it where you’ll even see billboards promoting Buc-ee’s. Of course while there, they will flog you their overpriced food and Buc-ee merchandise but it is an experience.
Which brings me to my favorite toilets of all time: Protea Hotel “Fire & Ice!” in Capetown. Each toilet is individually themed – “Long Drop”, “Stage Fright”, “Out House” and “Tempation”- where it was a delight to try a new one out each time.
Wishing you a clean and crappy World Toilet day.