Sunday, November 28, 2010

I REMEMBER...INTERNATIONAL TOILETS toilets. Yep. I was sharing the story the other night with my daughter about the benefits of living in the United States; hot water, ice cubes, showers, washing machines, etc. including toilets.

Traveling in Mexico in the early 70's, I had an apartment in Guadalajara where the bathroom was really two rooms. The first room had just the sink and the second room had the toilet and the shower. It was a great way to save some time in the morning. You could sit on the toilet and take a shower at the same time. [Side Note: the light switch, as you walked into the room, was just two wires sticking out of the wall - each had a little loop at the end and you just hooked them together to get the light to come on. Very non-OSHA.] In the two story, two block square, Grande Mercado in downtown Guadalajara, there were public toilets up on the second level. The toilets were normal, but there wasn't any toilet paper. You had to buy it from a bathroom attendent that sat there and ripped out two pages from a magazine for you for a few pesos. If you were lucky, you didn't get the extra slick pages. [side note: best sandwich ever in the marketplace was a torta de cabra [sic]...goat sandwich [the most tender part was from the cheeks of the whole goat roasted over a spit] washed down by a Dos Equis beer.

I was traveling in Paris, France in the late 70's, and was dining in a small restaurant off the beaten path and had to use the bathroom. There were stalls, but when you opened the stall door, there was no toilet at all, just a hole in the floor. Yes, I checked the other stalls; they were all that way. There were two bricks attached to the floor on either side of the hole. The trick was to place your feet on the bricks as you attended to business. When you pulled the flush handle on the wall, the floor flooded with water into the just had to make sure you were still standing on the bricks...ha. [Side Note: In my hotel room, there was a bidet in the bathroom. I used it to keep my wine cold.]

I remember as a kid, growing up in the 1950's Oklahoma, we would visit our farming relatives during the summer. One time we went over the state line into Arkansas into the Ozark mountains to visit my Great Uncle Johnny. He had about a very old cabin on some acreage in the mountains - mostly unusable, but for a young boy, it was like a old time camping trip. There was no electricity, a pump with a handle in the kitchen and the toilet was an outhouse, out the back door and up the hill a bit. It was a one-holer as they say, and a very big hole to sit on to boot. My biggest fear was that I would fall in. Very scary with big spider webs and black widows. I tried to not go to the bathroom the whole time we were there. [Side Note: when the adults wanted to tell adult stories and wanted me to leave, Uncle Johnny would hand me a rifle, a handful of shells and tell me to go squirrel hunting and come back in a couple of hours. You don't see that much anymore in suburban California.]

Last, but certainly not least, is my toilet story during my stay in Jamaica in the mid 70's. One of the places I stayed in was a room in a family's house in Negril at the north-west end of the island. Absolutely heaven on earth. The house was at the edge of town and the jungle came right up to the house. Fifteen feet from the house you would be lost in the jungle. The bathroom, like the Arkansas story, was outside, but with more class and fewer spiders. You went out the front door, up a little path, into the jungle. There was a small clearing where there were three cement walls about six feet high that semi-enclosed the toilet. When you walked around the wall to the open side, there, inside the 3/4 room, was the toilet. No ceiling, no fourth wall. Rather decadent feeling, sitting on the toilet, staring up into the sky and out into the jungle. It was beautiful, with colorful parrots, flowering vines and the jungle. When business was done, you scooped up a large coffee can full of rain water from the fifty-gallon drum next to the toilet and tossed it into the toilet to flush it.

[Side Note: I stayed with another Jamaican family just outside an area called Stawberry Fields (Forever, ala Beatles). They had a small house [hut] mostly constructed with driftwood and coca-cola signs. Right on the cliff, overlooking the ocean. A million dollar view. There was a hammock between two palm trees, overlooking the ocean, that quickly became my favorite place to hang out....and I have a picture to back it up].

By the way, the toilet was a dig-your-own in the banana orchard on the side of the hill.

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