If you are faint of heart or squeamish or having your dinner, you may want to skip this post.
The unfathomable toilet etiquette of the Westerners has had many points of argument with those of the East, especially since cable and satellite television brought those differences through Western dramas and movies into our drawing rooms. We have accepted and assimilated the Western-style toilets in our daily lives – whether they are as healthy as our Eastern toilets is a question we no longer bicker about – but that is about it. Drinking water from the bathroom faucets was one of the first things to scandalize the populace back home, until we were told that Westerners received ‘filtered’ water in all their taps – then we were just sad. Then, of course, there is the eternal paper versus water debate. We know that paper is just never going to get in those hard-to-reach places unlike water that trickles its way into all dark crevasses with ease. We are pretty smug about that one and magnanimously allow the Westerners their paper eccentricity and just shake our heads at their sometimes utterly silly ideas. But some things just move beyond head-shaking and better science.
‘Two and a half men’ has been a favourite sitcom of both hubby and me for quite sometime now, although we stick to the reruns where Jake was cute, Charlie is still alive and more than kicking, and Alan is being his miserly, defeated self. Every few episodes though we are presented with the image of one family member or other hugging the toilet bowl after a bout of heavy drinking. For some reason, this bothers me more than the double innuendo’s and the sexist theme of the show. They even fall asleep with their heads on the toilet or on the floor beside it.
And its not just this show. This is an oft-repeated theme for anyone who is suffering a tummy upset courtesy of too much drinking, emotional trauma or just bad food in American/Western movies and shows, and it manages to gross me out every single time. I mean, do they clean their bathrooms and toilet bowls with Hydrochloric Acid every single day for it to be clean enough to sleep there? I still remember this National Geographic documentary – remember the ones where they would film stuff in hyper-magnification and extreme slow-motion – where they showed how when you flush your toilets, tiny droplets mushroom out of the toilet bowl and settle on everything around like on the floor, the sink, the toothbrush on the sink and, of course, the toilet bowl itself. Granted, the human body is smart enough to fight off the minute amount of bacteria that it comes in contact with in this manner, but still it makes you think twice about bedding down in the loo.
Also, not everyone is a strict adherent of the ‘ Do not sprinkle, when you tinkle’ idiom. I am sure men talk on the phone, lean over to pick up something from the sink, dance to the violent songs playing in their headphones, rush out to answer the door bell halfway-through/while attending to the business of ‘tinkling’, which invariably must lead to ‘sprinkling’. Is it therefore smart to put your cheek on a rim which may be adorned by invisible droplets of liquid gold?
And what of the days when you have eaten that spicy Indian curry? Or, what about the times you catch a water-bug from contaminated pani-puri? Or, you drink milk past its expiry date? Your stomach churns and gurgles and rebels against such harsh punishment. The result is usually a case of what is known as the ‘runs’. They are also, more often than not, explosive. And explosions have been known to cause ‘splatters’ that have a far and wide reach. ‘Splatters’ stick on surfaces, dry and stay there waiting for a scrub off with the strongest acid on a longest-handled toilet brush or with conveniently moist cheeks or arms.
Still, if you are doing your hugging at your home, at least you know its all your own stuff. But what about the scenes on American television where people carry out their drink/trauma/drug-induced toilet hugging in ‘public’ toilets. (Pause for shudder). Do they not think of all the people who have walked into those un-hallow portals before them, dropped their pants, placed their naked flesh on that toilet seat and let go of their unnecessary baggage? Do they wonder how many times a week a cleaner walks through there with a mop and how much do they really try to get it clean? Do they wonder how many unwanted fragments of someone else’s most private lives they are carrying home smeared on their knees, their arms, their foreheads and their cheeks?
There must be a reason why the westerners do not squirm when they hug their toilet seats, given their penchant for cleanliness, and yet, try as I might and as much as I love my American sitcoms and movies, I will never reconcile myself to this aspect of their culture. Will they ever grow out of it or will it be a practice that will eventually be adopted all over the world?