Please flush after use
Writer: Sharyn Shufiyan
Published: Fri, 25 Nov 2011
November 19th was World Toilet Day! What better way to celebrate World Toilet Day than to address our toilet habits?
Toilets are somewhat a taboo subject – how many of us had made a boo-boo in a public toilet and rushed out so that we wouldn’t get caught red-handed? I’m sure some of us have been in a situation where the flush doesn’t work and it’s all clogged up, so the next best thing to do is to pull down the seat cover and walk out as innocently as possible and let the next person deal with it. After all, it’s a situation that’s outside of our control; more of a maintenance issue.
But let me talk a bit about our habits that can be controlled.
Babies are adorable and all, but their crap is as nasty as an adult’s. In some public toilets where there is no diaper room provided, some “enlightened” mothers would use the wash basin to wash their babies’ excrement.
I was recently using the ladies’ in the departure hall of an airport, and in front of me was a mother washing her baby’s bottom while a tourist was using the basin next to her. I was so embarrassed for my own countryfolk that I didn’t dare look up. When I walked out, I passed the tourist again and overheard her telling her friend about her restroom experience. Needless to say, we didn’t paint a pretty picture.
I was recently enlightened by a practice by some of the male species. While relating my airport experience, my colleague shared that some men wash their members in the wash basin. “So you can see it?” I asked gleefully. My colleague signed off with a cheeky “Confucius say, man in bathroom with tool in hand is not necessarily a plumber.”
I think that practice may not occur as often these days, as some urinals are now equipped with flowing water. So what do these gentlemen do? They cup the water and splash it onto their members. God knows where the water has been. Maybe it’s better to just flick it clean a few times.
That said, flicking it may set off a different kind of sensation. Once, my brother was washing his hands in a public toilet in a mall in Klang when he realised the person next to him was pleasuring himself in the sink while listening to his Walkman. Hello! Some things should be done in private!
Malaysians like to think that we are united and that we understand each other. But sometimes, our toilet methods are quite baffling. I’ve always thought squatting toilets are quite standard for Malaysians, as in the old days people would dig a hole to do their business. But I could not hold back my laughter when my college mate sheepishly asked me how people squat and not wet themselves. She figured that your pants would be under you. I would have demonstrated it to her, but I didn’t want to risk flashing.
I reckon toilet paper must have been a new addition since we don’t really use it. They either end up on the wet floor or clogging the jamban. We do, however, like to depend on the water hose or the classic pail and bucket.
And although we do wash ourselves – and wash ourselves thoroughly we do until the seat is all wet – it seems like we don’t like to dry ourselves. My colleague from Ecuador made a careful observation when using public restrooms:
She would hear the person next to her wash, but realise that none of the cubicles were equipped with toilet paper.
“So, how do they dry themselves? Do they carry tissue paper in their bag?”
“I hardly think so. They’ll just pull up their panties. They will eventually dry.”
Washing ourselves is one way to maintain hygiene, but I imagine walking around in damp panties, especially in our hot climate, can be pretty uncomfortable. Comfort is one thing, health is another. Moisture can encourage the growth of fungus yeast, which leads to infection. Keeping ourselves dry is equally important as washing regularly.
So, ladies, if you start feeling itchy down there, you might want to reflect on your toilet habits.
World Toilet Day was established by the World Toilet Organisation in 2001 to raise awareness on the lack of clean and proper sanitation of 2.6 billion people in the world. While most Malaysians are blessed to be equipped with access to clean water and functioning toilets (well, count our lucky stars for the ones that do function!), we tend to abuse this privilege.
We wet the floors; we leave shoeprints on the toilet seats; we leave diapers and unwrapped sanitary pads in the cubicles; we often forget to flush (it’s not funny when the flush does work!); we leave tissue paper everywhere.
Maybe we think that there will be other people to clean up our messes. But what’s more baffling is that some paid public toilets are in worse conditions than the free ones!
I’ve been in toilets where the cleaner is just sitting there. And sometimes, the restroom exterior is so posh, but when you push the cubicle door open, it’s like a whirlwind had hit from inside. Even signs seem to not do the trick.
It’s one of the many Malaysian mysteries I have yet to solve. Public toilets are an indicator of quality. How often do we size up a place by checking its toilets first? Trust is built once we approve of its toilet.
But more importantly, our toilet habits are really a reflection of the kind of society we really are. We take shortcuts – we think just enough is good enough.
It may not be a big deal to some, but it’s a big deal as to how foreigners perceive us.
And even if we don’t want to care about foreigners, at least care about the next person in line. Many times I’ve lost the urge to go – and it’s really painful, you know.