Near Yellow Mountain

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Squatter's Rights?"

My current trip found me in several small cities in western China. Despite a long tenure in Asia; I never came to grips with one of the major differences between east and west. Warning to the reader - this post may be too much information for some......

My family adapted quickly to the high end toilets of Japan. I think each of us probably pushed the wrong button  and got soaked at least once but we all liked the heated seats and other pleasant functions of a typical Japanese improvment on western culture.

It is best to approach a Japanese toilet with respect
After returning to the US, there was more than one cold winter day in North Carolina when I harkened back to the warmth of the Japanese toilet. One of the selling points of our house in Shanghai was that the landlord had the foresight to buy a full featured Japanese toilet which even had a "purity indicator" for the water in the bowl. Not sure why......

On the other end of the spectrum, we also encountered the dreaded "hole in the floor" aka squatter toilet on many occassions. Over time, I developed a sixth sense for where I might encounter the "squatter" and tried to manage my bodily functions accordingly. One of my traveling mantras in rural areas became "never pass a western toilet without a stop".

It seems like such a simple thing. As a marathoner, I often had to duck in an alley or in a wooded area when "nature called" on a long run. This never bothered me but I just never got comfortable with the "one eyed" toilet staring up at me from the floor. I felt like a young sumo wrestler awkwardly trying to learn how to engage the opponent at the center of the dohyo. I found the positioning needed bothersome and the lack of relaxation afforded by the hole a blight on the wisdom of the east. Did Confucious really use a squatter? It is also very hard to read and "take care of business" at the same time. Nobody calls a squatter toilet the "reading room" for good reason.

Later today after a week where I was forced to squat several times, I look forward to flying to Tokyo where the Peninsula Hotel provides the top of the line warm seat, adjustable spray toilet. Yes, simple pleasures are sometimes are the best.