Getting to the bottom of the matter
Updated: Apr 23
Getting to the bottom of cultural habits can be quite a challenge.
On my first journey to France [many years ago] I was confused at the ‘second toilet’ with a little tap on it. I had never heard of a bidet before and thought it was for washing feet.
Many years later in Italy I had an emergency moment and had to use a public toilet. The one with no ceramic bowl where you have to squat down and be careful you don’t … well you get the idea. The thing is I am not very good at multi-tasking, sitting, keeping trousers off the floor, balancing, relaxing, just too much for me. The experience left me PTSD.
While travelling on a bus in Laos some European people needed a ’comfort break’. So the driver stopped. The look on their faces when they realised it wasn’t an M6 Happy Eater and the toilet was about 1,000 square mile of forest was a thing of beauty. Watch out for the ants they really do get in your pants.
In small towns in China if you are in the street and need a number two you unroll a sheet of newspaper, do your business, fold it all up and dump it in a bin. All very convenient.
The Jews are far more ordinary about it all. They even have a prayer for everything working well, it is called the Asher Yatzar.
The Brits have taken toilets and bodily functions to a whole new level of embarrassed coughing, matching colours of soft close toilet seats and luxury soft recyclable moist papers. No doubt one day they will even be scented. None of that Izal grease proof stuff we had at school, that certainly wiped the smile off your face.
Toilet roll is a bit to expensive for most Cambodians so they have invented a flexible bidet. A three foot hose with a trigger mechanism, known colloquially as a “bum gun.”
You finish your daily contemplation, point it towards the unmentionables and pull the trigger.
The downside is since the upgraded water supply if you don’t get the trigger action just right it can be a little like a personal enema. Which if you like that sort of thing to start your day, well carry on.
Also if you get the angle wrong you can miss your southern hemisphere and give your shirt a tropical rainstorm then the water pours onto the floor and its a panic to get your pants off the small pond forming on the tiles.
Last but certainly not least after the refreshing cleansing there is no towel to dry off so its pull up the pants and walk around with a soaking wet bum for a while. You do dry off quick in 39ºc but in colder climes I would imagine frostbite of the glutinous maximus would be a distinct possibility.
One day here in Cambodia you will have an attack of the Phnom Penh potty trots. When this happens toilet paper, when used ten times in an hour, can have quite a brutal effect on your Johnny Cash song. This is when the bum gun comes into its own. A cool refreshing jet of local tap water shooting around the stinging parts can be very soothing.
There is one big upside of the bum gun though. Made even better when the new higher water pressure came on stream. You can enjoy your morning ablutions and while away many a minute by shooting down the mosquito’s and flies that dot the wall.
It's a very satisfying way to start the day.