The Haven
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The Haven

The Malfunctioning Bidet and Other Bathroom Adventures

I’m the kind of person who has had her fair share of bathroom adventures and I’m not talking sexy ones like the mile-high club. I’m talking unforeseen adventures like the time I was in China and I kept encountering squat toilets.

You’d think that a country which has a very high level of technology, some of the tallest buildings, and some of the wealthiest people, would have western toilets in every new facility.

But I digress. Back to the topic of my essay title here: the malfunctioning bidet.

Over the Christmas holidays last December, my husband and I were staying in a condo on the Big Island in Hawaii and the bathroom had a bidet toilet. It wasn’t a separate toilet as in some bathrooms in Europe. This was the only one.

From looking at it, you would have thought that you could choose from the menu. There is a small console with buttons secured to the wall above the toilet paper roll stand that has a list. It shows where the spray will hit, whether you want it to spray direct, or oscillate, or if you want a puff of drying air.

As I need to use it, I sit down and go as per usual. Without asking it to do anything, it sprays water on me, but the angle is all wrong. It hits my very low back. I try to adjust it using the buttons on the console and I can get the water to hit me in other places, but it still sprays me above my butt no matter what, even when I choose the drying air function. I have visions of using this to get myself off, but none of the positions hit the right spot.

I think about how the company who makes these should use voice technology so you can talk to it and tell it what you want, like during sex. “Lower, … faster…. oh yeah, right there, and Ahhhhhh…..”. Why hasn’t anyone come up with that?

On the second day of this, I try to outsmart it by pulling myself up a bit before it would spray but holy shit is that the wrong move. Water is spurting up like a geyser. It sprays across the room and I must use a nice fluffy white Egyptian cotton towels to mop up the mess.

I’ve thought about calling the front desk and having someone come up to the room to look at it. But then I think about the conversation I would need to have with the plumber or mechanic. “The water doesn’t hit me in the right place. I want it to hit me here, as I point down, but I just can’t get it to do it. And the oscillating function? It doesn’t oscillate.” No, I can’t have that conversation.

So, I suffer along for a few more days as a privileged Goldilocks who can’t say “just right.”

This reminds me of my China bathroom story. It was 2010, and I was traveling with the same husband to Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian. Thankfully all the hotels had western toilets, and a few with bidets, but you’d be surprised where you couldn’t find one: fancy malls with stores like Cartier and Chanel don’t always have them.

One of the activities on the trip was to go to see the Terracotta army. If you haven’t seen this yet, it really is something for your bucket list. Life sized statues of warriors and their horses that were unearthed in the seventies in an area the size of a football field. It depicts an entire ancient Chinese court to the Emperor. The complex is a whole day affair so invariably you will have to go to the bathroom.

I made sure to go before we left the hotel. I really didn’t think there would be a problem. This was a major tourist attraction for people from all over the world. All the U.S. Presidents from Carter on, and their wives, have visited it.

I wait until I have no choice to look for a bathroom. The first one: all squat toilets, the second one, the same. I decide to go to their food court which has a large selection of American fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and KFC. Surely, I will find a pedestal toilet in one of them. I did not.

At this point I am desperate. I can’t wait any longer. I enter the queue at the KFC bathroom and wait. Finally, I enter the stall. There it is: the dreaded squat toilet, on the ground. I go.

I pee all over myself. I pee on my shoes. I pee on my legs. I am beside myself. How could this have gone so very wrong? Well, apparently when you use a squat toilet you actually have to squat. You can’t pee standing up like a man. Life lesson.

I know what you’re thinking: she’s a complete idiot. How could she not know? But I’m the kind of person who needs to take a course on something new to know how to do it. I need to read about it online and get contrasting opinions. I need to get Plato’s opinion as well as Nietzsche’s, and compare and contrast.

Luckily, we were on the way to the airport after this outing and I had my luggage in the car. When I got to the airport, I dug out a new outfit and different shoes to wear and ran to the public bathroom to clean up and change clothes. And thankfully they had western toilets.

When I got home, I looked up on Wikipedia and there for all the world to read is an entire wiki for women on how to pee in a squat toilet. If only if read that in advance.



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Heather Drucker

NYC based book publicist who loves to talk about books, media and the arts; Facebook: Heather.drucker.1. IG: @druckerheather, Twitter: @hdrucker