I recently wrote an odd news story about the plight of the Indian people forced to use government-issue toilets.
I fancy myself a bit of an expert on toilets – being a world-wide lavatory explorer. [My husband says, “every hour on the hour”, but he does so exaggerate. This from a man who claims to need the loo and then promptly forgets about it for the next five hours.]
But I have in fact toured the great toilets of the world. I have ranked every rest stop between here and Houston, admired both the elegant and the exotic pissouire of Europe, and even ventured into wild WCs of rural Asia.
The self cleaning public toilets in London and Paris are nice, but I avoid them when I can. They feel like high-tech phone boxes and I just can’t stand sitting on a wet toilet seat. But be prepared to “Spend a penny” – it costs a p (or 20p) to pee in many London loos. At least for the Ladies. Gents, you can use the public urinal carousel for free (in the States you’d be fined for indecent exposure.)
German toilets are fine as long as you ignore the shelf. Really, don’t look. In Greece the toilets weren’t strange, but there were signs everywhere reminding tourists not to flush toilet paper. It just seemed so wrong putting used toilet paper in the trashcan, maybe they should recycle.
But I’ve never gotten the hang of “squat” toilets – the name tells you all you need to know, really. I personally refer to them as the “old French toilets” because France is where I first encountered them.
This “toilet” is nothing more than a hole in the ground – which hardly rates the term “toilet” – even out-houses are more advanced than this. To fancy it up a bit, two porcelain footprints are set on either side that serve as basic instructions on were to put your feet.
There’s probably a way for women to successfully use these toilets without completely undressing, but I haven’t found it yet. My American potty training was definitely inadequate.
Thankfully, these toilets are becoming rare in the tourist centers and there are often western options available (“W” in Korea stands for “Western” not “Women”.)
I still haven’t figured out how to use the French reverse toilet (AKA bidet,) but that’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say – don’t get them mixed up.
In Thailand, I got a handy lesson in toilet mechanics when I encountered a hotel toilet without a built-in water reserve – you know the tank at the back that fills up with water after you flush. Instead, there was a garbage can filled with water and and ladle. The proprietor knew enough to instruct the dimwitted Americans on how the toilet works. Ladle enough water in after and the toilet will flush. Water and gravity – pretty much sums up plumbing.
This knowledge came in handy the last time I had a toilet emergency on a Sunday and didn’t want to pay the plumber to miss his football.
I’m Jae and the moral of this message is – “go” before you go.