To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

~ Bertrand Russell ~

Funny Ways To Go

October 15th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 3 mins, 28 secs

Not toilet humor? Yuck!

Now I know funny ways to go might not be the most savory topic for discussion. But, it does have relevance. I mean you can’t go too far without feeling the need to stop at a convenience.

We call them toilets in Australia. Either that, or dunnies (but that’s a bit uncouth). With kids watching so much American television, young folk are starting to say “bathroom”. But that seems funny to me. After all, you’re not going in there to have a bath, are you?

Anyway, it’s hardly surprising that those who go the furthest often have a funny story or two to tell about going. I remember reading about someone needing to go in Goa, India. Reluctantly, she was directed to a “throne” on top of a high bamboo platform, right over a pigsty. The idea was to scale the scaffold, get comfortable and… I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. The pigs meanwhile raised an almighty ruckus at the prospect. So, it was all done to a serenade of excited squealing. Definitely funny now, but I doubt it was a mirth-filled moment for the hapless loo goer back then.

For our part, Ruth recalls a visit to country China where she was directed to a public convenience where she was handed two leaves of toilet paper. The toilet, shall we say, was of the communal variety, being no more than a room with a long open drain along one side. It was the opposite equivalent to a watering hole, though still a place to be seen and see everybody else.

Then there was the Barcelona backstreet restaurant where I had to try some paella (it’s funny how you get these things in your head, but being in Spain, I was motivated). Yet, I should have been a bit pickier because I didn’t spot the continual delta of water running across the restaurant floor. Heading off to the toilet, after we ordered, I discovered the source of the water. Inside the one and only toilet bowl was cracked in two and the contents were leaking through a slurry of sawdust (haplessly scattered over the deep puddle surrounding the broken pedestal).

It’s funny what you remember, isn’t it? Like the comfort station in Carcassonne, France, that was anything but. It had a reek to it that would knock down wild horses, thanks to a non-functioning flush that offered nothing more than desperately pushed in button. But at least it was open (if that counts for anything).

Meanwhile, back here in Australia, public conveniences have become increasingly industrial. No more porcelain and polish. Now, everything is marine grade stainless steel because weird people go into these facilities to bash and smash them. For the life of me, this bizarre behavior eludes my comprehension. But that’s what these individuals do. And, presumably, these dubious types hang around them. So, effectively, spending a penny on your travels means occasionally ducking off into a dystopian Blade Runner world of grubby steel and mesh. Not funny but, according to the toilet building powers to be, necessary.

While I might not like them, they at least provide a bit more modesty than the more public pissoirs of Amsterdam. Leaving little to the imagination, these funny little numbers certainly put the word public back into conveniences. For instance, one might just happen to be busy attending to one’s toilet, while a passerby might just strike up a conversation. To me, that’s a little bit too convenient.

Forget about getting your head around squat toilets (and I mean that figuratively), or the all-in-one marvels of Japanese toilet technology. It’s hard to beat the sheer simplicity of dunny cans. Back in the early ‘60’s, my parents were aghast that the neighborhood they moved into in Melbourne, Australia, lacked any sewage system. So, they were proud (and no doubt relieved) to find a house which the owners had specially fitted fully flushing facilities at great expense.

Flushed with pride or not, the dunny cans used by the neighbors meanwhile afforded a roaring “trade” for the night cart man. Trundling along urban streets in his familiar truck, he came to collect and replace the used dunny cans from a grateful public. As a child, too young to remember, I thought this routine funny yet strangely fascinating. But my parents found it disgusting.

Revulsion aside, the state of toilets reveals a strange contradiction. They remain secret in some senses, yet extremely public in another.  So long as they’re not properly recognized for their pure practicality, they will continue to be a funny, quirky, and often dirty issue.

Yet, perhaps it’s time matters of convenience got a proper airing and we sorted out better ways to go that don’t degrade, or force you to risk life and limb. It’s time we stopped going all funny about dunnies and encouraged everyone everywhere to get the conveniences they need. Surely, that would be a much better way to go…


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