Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An Aquarius in a WC.

When visiting the so-called developing countries, one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to you is encountering a toilet that does not flush. Forget about toilets that do not have toilet paper- that is a given. That is why I carry tissue with me. But the ones that do not flush can leave you in a really unpleasant predicament.

Think about it: you are invited to dinner at someone’s home, or are a customer at a small restaurant or a hotel somewhere, and then, after having eaten, you excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, and do your thing only to discover, to your utter dismay that their toilet does not flush. What will you do?

“Excuse me; your toilet does not flush!” No, I’d better not say that. I will embarrass the host. “Excuse me; do you have a bucket somewhere?” Sometimes, there is one in the toilet, but it takes time to fill and while you are filling it, you’d better close the toilet seat since the odor is filling the room very fast, and what will they think of you if the bathroom ends up smelling like a zoo cage? And what if there is no bucket? ”Excuse me, do you have a bucket?” Please give me a bucket fast!

Now, they are looking for one while you are standing there half-naked, peeping through the half-opened door, and then they bring you a small can, the one they put paints in, you know the kind, and then, you grab it with one hand while your body is inclined at a very awkward angle so that they would not see your private parts, and start filling it up. You are all crouched up in the bathroom with your pants down, but the can is not big enough, the water is splashing, the waste is swiveling inside the bowl and not going down as quickly as you would want it to. Do not give up, fill it up again, and again and again, but you are all wet by now and sweating. Finally, after several attempts, you have managed to send nature’s deposits on their way to the sea, but your host is giving you funny looks like you are the one who is acting funny and are weird.

I cannot think of anything more humbling, or an experience that renders you more helpless than coming in touch with such a toilet. Actually, being in a rural area or a slum is much less likely to allow you to run into such a situation since their bathrooms are basic- either they are holes in the ground , or they are bowls without a tank with a big dipper that floats in a huge bucket that is especially provided for such purposes. The problem starts when you move into the so-called upscale areas where the toilets are supposed to be flushing but they aren’t. They start when you visit your accountant friend’s home for dinner or go to a new restaurant in town or stay at a new hotel they have just built.

So, what should one do? If you feel that you are in a situation where a non-flushing toilet is likely to be present; go and check their toilet. Excuse yourself and go and try and flush it. Flush it two times. Why? Well, because, sometimes, there is no water in the pipes and you are just flushing the left-over water from the times when there was water in those pipes; and next time it may not flush. Your host may be surprised at hearing the toilet flush twice ( if it does), but hey, at least he will not be there after one hour watching you make an Aquarius out of yourself with pants down and your nose stuck into the crack in the door and beseeching lips mouthing the words “ Bucket please!” “Do you have a bucket?”

Better yet, if you can do it at all, try and get rid of bodily wastes at home or where you know a functioning toilet is present. That will save you a great deal of embarrassment when you are out there attending to more important functions than being an odorpus Aquarius in a malfunctioning WC.

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