Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Return of the toiletator

WHY is it that everytime I have a stomach upset in Japan, the only restrooms I can find have the traditional Japanese hole-in-the-floor style toilets?

The potential for this had seemed amusing as I attempted not to bowl over every department store shopper while making for the restrooms. When actually confronted with three empty cubicles containing floor troughs, the entertainment value dropped by roughly a third for each convenience. The forth and final door in the restroom had a small sign on it marked 'western'. It was occupied.

I swallowed. Did I go with the squat pot and deal with the fact I might be crouched down and unable to move for quite a while? Or did I wait for the western-style toilet to become free with all the discomfort that delay entailed?

I really did need to sit. Casually, I lent against the tiled wall, trying to conceal the fact I was surreptitiously doubling over. At the basins beside me, two Japanese women were washing their hands. I felt a stab of regret I wasn't moving to use the traditional ammenities. No doubt I was confirming every stereotype regarding inflexible foreigners right there. However, there are times to worry about impressions. And there are times to worry about not soiling your clothes. Broadly speaking, they are mutually exclusive.

The door to the occupied cubical swung open. I tried not to nose dive through it. Taking only the moment needed to confirm that no western toilet had this many buttons, I collapsed with relief onto the seat.

Beside me on the wall was a button marked 'push'. Undoubtedly, this was the flush... Unless that was the second button directly above it, also marked 'push'. This upper button had a further description of what said impression would instigate, but it was all in Japanese. The only action I could think of was that one of these choices was an emergency help button, a fact made more likely by the necessity of a disabled customer to use this cubicle. So, if I pressed the correct button, the toilet cleaned itself and I was free to go. Press the wrong button, and the store alarm would sound bringing twenty paramedics into my cubicle.

Was it going to be the red pill .... or the blue pill?

Later, I was to acknowledge there were times when Japan was a bit too exciting.

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