It drives me batty when males leave up the toilet seat. Seriously batty. I would say it’s my “number one rule” to put down the toilet seat, but really, I have so many rules for my family that it’d be hard to determine which is number one. At any rate, it probably started the same it did for many women—too many times in the middle of the night sitting down only nearly to fall into the water. But then it progressed as I noticed the grosser things under the toilet seat that somehow manifest within hours: splattered urine, pubic hairs. Ew. Who wants to sit on that! Even though my husband is very conscious of toilet cleanliness, wiping down the naked rim with a tissue after each use, and putting the lid down, the bottom line is that it is never, EVER appealing to walk into a bathroom and find the toilet seat up [and frankly I think it’s an act of insensitivity and selfishness by the culprits who do so]. Yet, the very fact that I complain about a toilet seat being left up seems in itself a (slightly) superficial complaint. The new label in the last couple of years for this type of ridiculous whining? First World Problem. Those people who espouse to be “above” all the trivialities of life might dismiss me.
My toilet issues were on my mind when my husband and I arrived in Istanbul in 2012 for the tail-end of an eastern vacation. As our flight was touching-down and the reverse thrusters activated, launching me forward, he leaned over and said, “oh, by the way, do you know about Turkish toilets?” Never had the term passed by me before, and I found his description difficult to visualize until I stumbled upon one IMMEDIATELY AFTER walking off the jetway when I scrambled for the closest restroom, before going through customs even. The urgency of having to pee after a flight created a little panic, so when I entered, looked into the first available stall and saw a Turkish toilet, I though, okay, I didn’t expect to encounter this so quickly, but let’s go. It wasn’t terrible. The facility was clean. But what surprised me after exiting and peering into the now-open stalls was that the toilet I used was THE ONLY Turkish toilet in the bathroom. Like, other women ahead of me all had taken the regular, Western toilets and of course left the least-desirable one available. Having no clue, I never thought about waiting. Bitches. The second time I encountered a Turkish toilet was at a beach in Antalya, but since I already was wet and sticky with sand and surf, it didn’t seem like much of an inconvenience.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the most recent trip to Hong Kong, where floor toilets are not called Turkish toilets (for the usual, obvious reasons), but “squatty potties.”
They are trés normal in the Mong Kok restaurants and public restrooms we frequented, a sign of the less-developed facilities in the city, away from the mass of tourists and the scrutiny of more “upscale” Western eyes. By the end of the trip I was feeling, well, somewhat less tolerant of the bathrooms in general where I always had to make sure I had tissue and sanitary wipes because who knows… This means I was less than thrilled when we searched for a bathroom on Lantau Island, Tai O, and I walked in behind two women to find an open stall with a squatty potty. However, being old hat for me by this time, I didn’t flinch, pulled out my tissue and went to work. And then it happened. Again. I walked out of my stall to find the other two stalls now open, with, you-guessed-it, Western toilets. The two women (the ONLY OTHER TWO WOMEN in that area of town that moment) had departed two of the three stalls where they had absconded with the Western toilets. I was left with the lone squatty potty. Bitches squared, B2.
Here I am now, on a plane. This post has been on my mind all week, and seemed a priority of humor this afternoon as I’ve enjoyed airport bathrooms, the cleanest relief facilities in these types of countries, all for the tourists, of course, outside of the Western malls and expensive hotels. This is where my thinking took a twist as I remembered my foot massage last night, the last night in Mong Kok. Another story entirely, another time. But there was a conversation with a woman from Emirates who sat beside me for my brief indulgence, getting a foot massage herself, that made that “pewww” thing go off in my brain. Think the sound of multiple bottle rockets going off in succession, or a teenager gesturing “it blew my mind” with fingers expanding in explosive fashion.
She asked if I am American. Yes, but I did not vote for Trump. I’m sorry about him. “But you should be proud of your country,” she said. And I am, but it also made me think. Of all the things I take for granted. Of the attitude I carry when I travel of expectation and entitlement, a result of the access and opportunity I’ve had in my life not only as an American, but a white, middle-class, American. And that is that sometimes I’m the bitch (well, okay, maybe a lot of the time I’m the bitch, but again, another post). I’ve got a case of first world problems. And while I’ll continue to be disgusted by toilet seats left up by thoughtless men (who also need them down part of the time, by the way, so the statistics are on m side), I will think differently the next time I encounter a squatty potty. But I also will wait to see if there are Western toilets lurking behind those closed stall doors.