Posted by: martinworster | September 19, 2010

102. GERM WARFARE

Toilet, rest room, crapper, dunny, carsi, lav, shit house…it’s all the same to me…

It’s interesting how, through a subtle process of osmosis, you adopt some of your host countries social mores and rituals. I have taken to using a piece of tissue to open the door when exiting a toilet. Sorry, I mean rest room. Rest room? Surely a silly term for a toilet as there is definitely no resting going on? I believe the term ‘rest room’ is used to cover up the yucky things that go on in toilets that Americans want to keep out of mind. Namely pissing and shitting. Eeeeeuuuuwww! That’s American for eerrrr. The noise used to signify when something is all, like totally gross. Which is why a piece of tissue is used to protect my mitts from, eeeuuwww, like those yucky germs. But more on that in a mo.

The irony is for an act (shitting) that most people – particularly in America – don’t like to think about then why do they have those dreadful two player toilets here? For clarity’s sake, I am of course referring to the mens toilets. Two player toilets are those weird set ups where there is BOTH a toilet AND a urinal in the same room. Why? They’re not lacking in space here? Everything’s supersized and XXL here, why not build two separate toilets? Or cubicles? I’m still working out the etiquette here. If you walk in and someone is squeezing one out I assume you do a U turn? I have yet to have this experience, quite possibly, as American’s only poo at home. But sometimes the call of nature, err calls, and you have to unload in public. Well not public, that would be totally gross – but in a non-home situation.  

I have walked in and a male has been urinating in the urinal leaving the toilet free – which I went and pissed in. Is that the done thing? The few times I did this there has been an uncomfortable silence. I thought I might have overstepped some boundary, an American faux pas. It’s like tipping culture, all the idiosyncracys of another countries code of conduct can appear hazy to a host.  

I have also been to quite a few establishments where the toilet actually has no door. Can you believe it? I mean if someone want’s a number two, at least give them the dignity of some privacy. On these places the crapper would be set back in the room with a dividing wall but no door. It beggars belief. So it’s called a ‘rest room’ to deflect from the reality of what really goes on – yet you have to take a shite in few of anyone who happens to saunter in? Like a lot of things here, it’s odd and inconsistent. 

So I use a tissue now instead of – heaven forbid – touching my hand on the bacteria infested door knob, Germs directly transported from one knob to another. In most toilets there is a specific bin near the door for discarding of tissues. When there isn’t there is a pile of tissues. I’ve often seen men using bits of clothing as barrier (sleeve pulled down, coat) if there isn’t tissue. Part of me want’s to resist acquiring this behavioural quirk but then it does kind of make sense. Although you’d think that everyone in such a germ conscious country would wash their hands making this handle – the one on the way out – one of the most germ free? It would be a good idea to put the washbasin on the outside. It would save tonnes of discarded tissue every year.

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