Armistead Maupin, former columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and author of the hit series of books Tales of the City while recently in Australia with his husband was told he couldn’t use the restroom at Bojangles Saloon in Alice Springs, because it was “reserved for real men”. The idiot bartender who denied the use of the facilities to the gay couple undoubtedly rues opening his ignorant mouth thanks to the worldwide negative press the incident received. I suppose I should feel more outrage that something as basic as using a restroom would be denied to someone just because they are gay. But then it’s difficult to get too worked up about anything that involves a public toilet. Unless you’re George Michael.
In any case, the incident really is nonsensical because as everyone knows: Real men use squat toilets.
I’m a truly blessed individual. In my close to 30 years of visiting Thailand I’ve only had to use a squat toilet once. And that was to pee. No big deal. Pee in a hole, pee in a bowl, neither takes much knowledge or concentration, just a bit of aiming. But the experience did remind me once again how glad I am to not be a fish.
Most visitors to Thailand will escape the pleasure of using a squat toilet. The only experience you may have with the squat toilet in Thailand is the wet foot prints left on your hotel room toilet seat by the bar boy you brought back for a night of fun. Thai guys new to the Big Mango are not used to the Western toilet and end up using it as they would a squat toilet back home.
On a recent visit to the Kingdom I hauled along a few friends. One of the women had to use the facilities pretty much everywhere we went. Like my dog, she felt it necessary to mark her spot everywhere we went. A slow learner, it took her three times of having to come back to the group to borrow a few baht for the entrance fee before she figured out public toilets in Thailand are not free. In Chiang Mai, we stopped forlunch at a local restaurant complex at the foot of the road up to Doi Suthep. Thinking ahead this time, she headed to the toilets with 5 baht only to have to come back for an additional 2 baht for a few pieces of toilet paper. The grossed out look on her face when she had finally completed her routine made me knowingly laugh. Yup, she’d experienced her first squat toilet, and a fairly well used and unsanitary one at that.
Squat toilets in Thailand run the gamut from being a basic hole in the ground to a porcelain pedestal almost the height of a Western toilet. The most common though is a kind of porcelain bowl sunk into the floor with foot rests on either side. Peeing for men is no problem. Having to actually squat for either gender can be tricky for those unaccustomed to using this type of toilet. There is a matter of balance involved to keep yourself from tilting over onto what is usually a soaking wet floor. There is also the matter of how far down you pull your pants; get it wrong and you’ll be quickly looking for a clean pair to put on.
The experts weighing in on the squat vs Western toilet issue claim the squat toilet is better for you; the position is more conducive to a healthy bowel movement. Could be true. But there’s gotta be easier ways to get grant money than the type of research this finding would require. Remembering many nights as a youth puking my guts out from drinking too much – praying to the porcelain god as we called it – I wonder what that experience is like for the squat toilet user. Not overindulging in alcohol is probably a lesson more quickly learned.
You may be lucky and never run up against a squat toilet in Thailand. But if you are a man and use a public toilet you probably will run into a practice as off putting. Busy toilet facilities require frequent cleaning. While standing at a urinal doing your business, don’t be shocked if a female cleaner comes in and starts mopping the floor between your legs. And please refrain from your natural inclanation . . . she won’t find it amusing that you decided to pee at her mop.
Almost as surprising is the duty of toilet attendants at uh, service establishments. After you’ve unzipped and started to let it flow, the attendant will often start giving you a shoulder massage. A tip is appreciated. Please wash your hands, first.
And in Related News . . .
In related news – and you just gotta love that today’s news covers toilets – urinals in Amsterdamn’s Schiphol airport have fly graphics in the bowl for men to aim at. Seems men often feel a compulsion to aim their urine stream at the fly; the fly target helps prevent men from peeing outside the basin or bowl of the urinal. Similar urinals are in place at the JFK Airport in New York, Singapore’s Changi Airport, and the airport in Munich, Germany. I love that reports covering this phenomena include words such as ‘intuitive’ and ‘human friendly design’. Fact is boys will be boys at any age. We love our toys and we love our tools. Give us a target and we will take aim.
What surprises me is that since the urinal flies have been around for about 5 years now, no one has marketed a line for home use replacing the fly with your favorite target. As many Obama haters as there are in the U.S. I’d think little Obama heads to pee on would be a million dollar idea. Hmmmmm. Check back for the link for my new on-line business!
And because we aren’t quiet yet reading to flush this story . . .
For those in the know – uh, that would be gay guys – our Chinese brethren have a rep for being a bit wanting when it comes to the question of size where it matters. (Too subtle for you? Chinese guys have small peepees.) Here’s photographic proof of the national problem. In Bejing they realize it’s not aim or trajectory at fault, it’s that the gun is just too damn short. So the signs suggests moving in a bit closer.
Both attempts at keeping the spray within the porcelain miss the mark. So to speak. We’re guys. We don’t care where it goes as long as we don’t pee on our shoes.
Cool. I think my blog just became the web’s leading authority on toilet use. I’ll leave all the obvious puns to you.