Monday, February 11, 2013

A Tale of Two Toilets

A flushable toilet at a comfortable height, with a secure seat, and reasonably soft toilet paper - all 21st century first-world expectations. And I'm a 21st century first-world gal, even though I pride myself at being able to roll with the punches. Or the lack of a toilet seat.

Recent travels to Asia have led me to experience the sublime and the ridiculous in the world of toilets. Of course, "ridiculous" is the wrong word for the dicier end of the toilet spectrum. "Serviceable," "functional," and "locally colorful" are better descriptions. Billions of people use such devices to dispose of their personal effluviance a gazillion times a day, so it seems very spoiled-bratty of me to even mention them. I'm just doing it for compare/contrast purposes.

Let's start with the locally colorful toilets. When I first encountered seatless toilets and no flusher or paper, I thought, "Hm. Must be broken." I figured something was up when the second and third "comfort rooms" I entered - both in nice buildings - had seatless/paperless toilets as well. Some had flushers, some only had a bucket and a hose, but - confession time - I never figured out what I was supposed to do with those flushwise. The toilet pictured above is as up-market as it got. At least it was more than 8" off of the ground and it flushed. Ah, well. When in Rome. Or Manila. Live and learn. Live with squatting, and learn to bring your own paper with you. Simple.

While latrine-use is the low-end of the toilet scale, the car-wash musical toilets in Japanese airports are absolutely 5-star. On my way to Hong Kong, I had a layover at Narita/Tokyo and experienced the push-button pleasure seats in their restrooms. Took me a few minutes to figure out which button did what little service, and I never sorted out why there's a "flushing sound" button in addition to the actual flusher. Study the picture; I'll spare you the details. But trust me when I tell you it's worth a trip to Japan just to use the toilet. Lucky for me I got to stop off in Japan on the way back to the US. I bypassed the souvenir stalls and eating establishments, and headed straight for the restroom. It was the most satisfying layover I've ever had. 

Yes, it was the best of toilet times, it was the worst of toilet times. And in Japan it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. I'm feeling very second-world here in NYC with my buttonless loo. Sigh.


1 comment:

Liz said...

Right, I'm adding Japan to my want to see list!

On the plus side it must be a lot easier to clean toilets without a seat.