Friday, January 28, 2011

"Scat Illogical"


Travel is formidable; it takes our expectations and dumps them upside down. In our normal daily lives, because we're used to controlling our environments, we have notions of "I need..." or "In order to feel right, I'm gonna have to have..."--but then travel comes along, fails to deliver on our requirements, and forces us to cope.

In the process of coping, we have to hold each of our notions up to the light (incidentally, you should feel a little bit sorry for my ideas and notions, what with their first being rudely dumped and then scaldingly burned by a bright light; in truth, all the best ideas are sorely bruised after a day in my care), turn them around a bit, examine them from every angle, and then concede that, while they might have felt essential back home,

they actually, under the pressure of travel, can be shucked. We can be different when circumstances are different. It's one thing to realize that for the first time when backpacking in Austria as a 20-year-old. It's a bigger thing to remember it after some decades have passed, once the entrenchments of middle age have been dug.

For me, I've been living a life in which I know who my people are and what my circumstances are going to be--I have the right husband, the gift of all the kids I'm going to have, the job I hope to occupy until retirement, the house I would love to live in until my knees give out. With so much so settled, my brain and habits have permission to coast. Even worse, they have permission to become self-satisfied and complacent. They have permission to announce, "The way I do things is right, gol dern it. If I wasn't doing things right, I'd change 'em, now wouldn't I?"

Under the sway of such righteousness, we need courage to risk a challenge. Travel calls to center stage all the challenges and risks that have been shuffling around impatiently in the wings (ah, but do they realize their luck in not having been dumped and held up to the light?). Travel asks us to descry the beauty in discomfort.

Personally, in addition to creating in me an addiction for the flavors of red pepper combined with plain yogurt; in addition to reminding me that relaxation is the best strategy when on a bus with no idea of where to get off; in addition to convincing me that wild gesticulation and miming often equal precise language; in addition to showing me that males can be the driving social force in a culture; in addition to filling me with awe that there are aged muezzins who, although barely able to croak out a note fit for public ears, dutifully shamble to the mosque at 5 a.m. every morning in frigid cold to grab the microphone and burnish their faith in Allah; in addition to teaching me that staring isn't always judgmental...

in addition to all of these lessons, travel to Turkey has asked me to get over my belief that the only good toilet is a dry toilet.

At this juncture, your brain might be conjuring up an infamous Turkish squat toilet, a hole in the ground that calls upon one's willingness to hike pant legs, strengthen quadriceps, and deliberately ignore the half-inch of water covering the floor.

But that's not what I mean. A squat is what it is. Adjustment to its requirements is fairly straightforward: do a few limbering yoga poses, roll up pants, reach into bag for hunk of toilet paper, and then squat and stare at cracked ceiling in Directed Meditation until it's time to fill the pitcher of water to toss down the hole.

Rather, I'm referring to the kind of elevated porcelain bowl that is ubiquitous in the Western world.  Just a regglar toilet like they sell at the Home Depot.  Only wet, with no orange-smocked workers milling about, ready to help you mop up.

C'mon. You know where I'm coming from. Like me, you've walked up to a toilet, looked down at the seat, and recoiled viscerally at the sight of droplets of moisture dotting what should be a pristine desert plain. A small voice inside of you rationalizes, "Maybe this toilet is so hygenic that its vigorous flush splashes water up from the bowl, causing it to land on the seat. Maybe what I see here is simply a respectable bleach water." However, an insistent shouty voice inside of you overpowers that Small Dumb Voice with a beller of, "Don't. you. dare. sit. down. That is PEE. Someone else's pee, no less. Place not your buttocks near a stranger's pee, Elton, or I shall smite you across this room until your head hits the hand dryer, knocking you out cold, albeit with warm and shiney locks." The more intrepid of you, at this point, may grab a wad of tissue and wipe off the seat before resolutely sitting down for relief.  The more squeamish of you may leave that stall and bang around the bathroom, looking for drier pastures.  The hyper-phobic of you may seek out drier pastures and then still insist on lining the seat with a line of protective paper.  The ultra No Touchy of you may deal with the situation by refusing to lower your body to the dry-pasture seat at all--instead choosing to hover over the seat, and if that's the case, why in the hell are you getting so prissy about a Turkish squat toilet that doesn't even have an anxiety-inducing seat built into its design?

So, um, you know what I mean about a wet toilet.

What travel has brought to me, however, is an entirely new kind of wet toilet, this version blissfully pee-free.  You see, invariably in Turkey, "modern" bathrooms are built with the shower hanging over the toilet (a fact that makes it remarkably easy to pee in the shower).  What this layout means is that every time someone takes a shower, the toilet gets a drenching.  Hypothetically, that should make me feel good:  "Hey-hey-wow-wow, this toilet is insanely clean!  Three people today have showered in here, which means this toilet has had three showers, and what could be more pleasant than a thrice-douched toilet?"  Ironically, though, I have enough of "could be urine" worries culturally built into my psyche that any time I see a freshly-showered toilet, I feel a rush of hesitation.  The porcelain may be slippery with Pantene and not someone's bladder expulsions, but I have to fight to get past my conditioning.  A wet toilet, no matter what's coating it, doesn't appeal. In fact, I've become very good at wiping down well-showered toilets (speaking of the unexpected side effects of travel). And I've gotten better at accepting the water for what it is, as it coats the lid, the seat, the base, the floor around.  It's, small ewwww, just someone else's dead skin cells floating in a tepid stew that slicks over the place where parts of My Nekkid are intending themselves. What's to cringe at, really?

The good news is that travel not only makes us cope; if we hang in there with it long enough, we encounter situations that--wait, how did I start this post?--dump our expectations upside down.  That is, if you can stand me using the word "dump" in a heavily-toileted bit of writing. If it helps at all, carry on with the knowledge that I intend to spritz all readers with lemon cologne (the Turkish version of rubbing alcohol) upon exit, as is the practice at every public restroom.  So you may feel dirty now, but never fear:  I'll layer some pungent anti-bacterial over your smells before we get to the final period.

Oh, heavens.  Now I've gone and mentioned periods, just when you thought you'd had your fill of bodily expulsion imagery.

But, okay, let's just level with each other here:  out of every single person's privates come yellow things and brown things and, for half of us, red things, and if we're being honest (why stop now?), that's the ultimate lesson of travel, isn't it?  Some of us have darker skin while others of us lack distinct pigmentation; some of us wake up early with Allah in our hearts while others of us lounge all day with Kierkegaard on our minds; and some of us dither around the toilet bowl while others of us drop our pants behind the nearest bush; yet all of us discharge the yellows and browns and reds,

and so maybe the part of travel that delights me the most is the lesson called Just Get Over It Already.

And maybe the part of this post that is tickling me the most--outside of my promise to spritz y'all with lemon cologne before you go (because that's. just. fun.)--is that I've written all this rambling blather and haven't even gotten to the whole reason I started typing in the first place.  When I opened this window in my browser, it was with the thought that I'd toss out some photos of a really awesome room at the inn that we're minding.

It happens to be a bathroom.

Which is pretty much how we all got to this point together right now.  I thought "bathroom," and suddenly, whoa baby, here we all are, piddling on wet toilet seats and evacuating our bowels together in some sort of fuddled Coca-Cola commercial about teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony.

The whole thing leaves me wondering:


22 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Well, that and how can I make me one of them cool quizzes for MY blog?!

jess said...

Lan's sakes, Peaches. You don't have to leave the country to get real familiar with tinkled-on toilets. I experienced quite a few on my cross-country road trip. I won't tell you how I deal with it, just let me point out that those squatty muscles in your thighs?? mine are real strong.

Deborah said...

All right, I'm going to be reeeally predictable here Jocelyn, and totally ignore what you wrote and lather all kinds of praise on you for HOW you wrote it.
Whether you realize this already or not, I do not laugh all that easily. Or, to put the blame where it properly belongs, very few people are actually so funny as to make me laugh out loud.
But I could. not. stop. Hilarious. And I do mean slap-my-thigh entertaining.

And as if dreaming about you weren't enough, now I'll be thinking about you every time I go to the bathroom. You oughta be in advertising.

unmitigated me said...

There's something right in my world when even Jocelyn is writing poop posts. And, not fair, limiting my choice to one option! I want to see the pictures, but I also want to follow your meandering mind.

Jeni said...

In the words of Arte Johnson, "Interesting. Veddy, veddy interesting." (I have no "but" response to add to that though.) I don't know how I would survive the toilet turmoil there as none of my leg muscles are anywhere near as strong as they used to be.

secret agent woman said...

We had those shower/toilet combos on a barefoot cruise. Very efficient.

The other thing about feeing settled is you lose sight of the fact that life can turn on a dime. All the things you assume to be life-long might not be.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I'm stoutly humming "Candle In The Wind", like a good'un .... or , at least I think I am ... . When do I get to see the picture and be spritzed ?
All over the world public loos range from twee ( scented candles , embroidered handtowels and Vivaldi at a train station near here ) to nightmareish .
Very mind broadening !

Pam said...

If it lives, it poops. Yellow brown and red things coming out of everything- yeah I've thought about it before, from royalty, to pets,zoos, celebrities and to the floating cities of cruise ships (a kind of zoo I guess). Watching an ad for a cruise I said to my husband "is it just me, or does nobody else see that as just one mother of a floating toilet?" I think it's just me,(or the unpopular dinner party guest who's forced to admit "I work in waste management".)
...and imagine two aliens looking at earth and one says "oh yeah, that planet where the living things suck in air, automatically! ..the creatures spend their lives having to earn money, so they, and others who depend on them,have no choice but to eat things just to eliminate, otherwise none of them get to do that sucky-in breath thing!"
Loved your poop and tinkle post!

Jim Berg said...

Red pepper in plain yogurt? Is that breakfast for visiting midwesterners?

Robin Preble said...

I am now thinking that toilets and toileting is a pretty good topic for a blog. Wondering how I can work it into the world of midlife rock. I haven't wet my pants yet, though there is a high likelihood of that if we ever perform outside of our basement digs. Undoubtedly, there is a way and I will find it. As always, you lead and inspire.

geewits said...

I watch "House Hunters International" quite often and I've seen many toilet in the shower set-ups, but I bet I've never seen anything like in your Fairy Chimney.
Are we there yet?

haphazardlife said...

I...

Words fail me. Yep.

Your mind boggles my mind.

- Jazz

haphazardlife said...

Oh, and the tite! I LOOOOOVE the title. It is title heaven.

- Jazz

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

You are hysterically funny!
Like in my head when I see a "damp" seat! So I would STRUGGLE with a wet seat. And don't even get me started on the floor. Nay, I'd have strong calves and thighs from SQUATTING.
The quiz crashed on me, so I'm left hanging...

Chantal said...

you still rock! And I have a toilet story. From Brazil. I will write it someday. I am putting it on a post it note and sticking it to my work monitor now!

Bob said...

What you didn't mention, and I will do so assuming that the turkish toilets experienced by you are similar to the ones I experienced in Bahrain, is that there is *no* toilet paper - just a sprayer on a hook next to the toilet bow. I'll leave it to you to explain how they clean themselves after "number-2" without soaking their clothes (as I never found out).

that, and the ritual cleaning before prayers ensures that all bathrooms I encountered had standing water in them.

P.S. I don't know if it was my browser or what, but I never did see a picture of the spectacular toilet of which you allude.

brokenbiro said...

What a gripping post - you have kept us on the edge of our seats (ha ha! - just yanking your chain!)

I went to a loo in Sumatra once which was kept clean by a constant stream from the neighbouring hot springs running between the raised footpads!

word verification: wringed (I kid you not)

lime said...

ah yes, travel and toilets are the great equalizers. i thought i was inured to such revulsion since i grew up using outhouses whenever i went to the mountain house with my grandparents and since i'd done hiking on the AT and had used bushes and holes in the ground. but nothing prepared me for an "outhouse" that consisted of a slab of flat rock and a hose.

Pearl said...

Holy crap but that was good fun!!

Pearl

my word verification is potti! :-) I shit you not!!

Mother Theresa said...

That poll was missing the answer I would have chosen, which was: post the photos and keep on blathering, because I love your blathering.

I too have had many interesting toilet experiences over here in Spain, including the squat type, but the most disgusting restroom, if you could call it that, was one I found in Venice Beach, California. Every inch of the floor was covered with filthy water and the walls were smeared with what I can only assume was human excrement, I didn't stay in long enough to find out for sure. A wet toilet, no matter how clean, is just not appealing to me, mostly because you need a towel to dry off your legs before pulling your pants back up,or you end up with your underpants stuck to them, and that's just kind of a nasty.

And yep, everybody poops...in Spain they have a saying, "Caga el rey, caga el Papa, del cagar nadie se escapa", which translates to, "The king poops, the Pope poops, no one gets out of pooping."

Christina said...

It's been a while since I checked your blog, and now that I have all feels right with the world. A great cup of coffee, a view of endless snow out my window, and moments spent in profound appreciation of you. Keep writing, you've got a gift chicky-poo. Thanks for sharing it. xo

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I am fairly adaptable but I do not care for wet toilets, no matter how they come by that condition. As a young woman traveling in Europe, I adapted to French hostels which employed newsprint for toilet paper, and got a raging infection. Flexibility is not always all it's cracked up :) to be.