Member Musings: Iris Shur

Member Musings features the reflections and thoughts of an NPC member.


Toilet Tales

Iris Shur

When I was in the Louvre in Paris many years ago, I experienced my first automatic flushing toilet. Initially, I am embarrassed to say, I was sure the French were taking photos of people in the bathroom. What I saw was something that looked like a camera on the ceiling above the toilet. It turned out to be the trigger for the automatic flushing process. Who knew?

Those automatic flushing toilets—what a pain. Just when you ready yourself, the darn toilet flushes. Nothing worse than sitting on a flushing toilet, is there? Or you carefully ready one of those flimsy seat covers, take out the middle portion, put it over the seat, turn to sit down and, oh no, it flushes and the seat cover is gonzo. I’ve had occasions where I had to start over three times before I cagily beat the automatic flusher. I swear someone is watching and vindictively flushes the toilet to frustrate me.

Many times there are no toilet seat covers. In that case I often use toilet paper to cover the seat. This is quite dangerous. First of all it takes much more time than the seat cover and is sure to call up the flushing demon. Secondly, I have had the excruciating embarrassment of not totally disposing of the toilet paper used for covering the seat and having someone tell me it is hanging out of the back of my pants.

Is it possible that you don’t wash your hands if no one else is there? Just asking. Sometimes I go into a stall that includes a sink. But I don’t wash my hands there. I am afraid that people will not realize I have washed my hands already, so, to avoid embarrassment, I would rather wash my hands publicly. I’ll bet you all know what I am talking about!

I have made a vow not to use blowers to dry my hands in a public bathroom. Rubbing wet hands together that never seem to dry is not my cup of tea. So what I do is use some toilet paper to dry my hands. The problem, to which all will attest, is that toilet paper in public bathrooms is thinner than thin and falls apart whether you use it for its intended purpose or for drying your hands. And while I am on that subject, how long will you spend trying to carefully find the end of a new roll of toilet paper before you just rip the darn thing to shreds? Forget conservation.

But toilet paper in the United States is far superior to toilet paper anywhere else in the world where I have traveled, and much more bountiful. I recently paid to enter a toilet along the Danube and was given three sheets of toilet paper. You travelers can commiserate with me. I once collected toilet paper samples from my travels and put them in my photo albums. What this proved? Brillo is softer.

When we went to China I carried both toilet paper and toilet seat covers in my purse at all times. China has two types of toilets. One is called a Western toilet and is just like ours. The other is a hole in the floor. You have to squat. My mother never taught me to squat. During my trip to China I was always lucky enough to find a Western toilet. I did have a very close call once, down the street from the Great Wall. I was alone in a bathroom with seven stalls. Upon opening door number one, I saw a Chinese toilet. Slowly I opened door two. The same. I went down the line, opening door after door, and my heart was sinking with each sighting of a hole in the floor. Finally I got to the last stall. You should have seen me standing there, sweat pouring off of me, praying to whatever gods they have in China that stall number seven was a Western toilet.

My prayers were answered.

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