aNewDomain commentary — I know from terrible restrooms.
I have peed in gas station restrooms in Nevada that ought not to exist in the United States, which purports to be a First World nation.
I have shat in a hole guarded by a ferocious rooster. In Afghanistan. As bombs were falling nearby.
I have mastered the squat necessitated by the “Turkish style” toilet, which actually clears things out more cleanly than the supposedly superior sitdown type.
I have traveled the world, scores of packages of facial tissues in tow because I know that most of the world does not believe that human beings have the inherent God-given right to toilet paper, whether it be one- or two-ply, smooth or coars
I have shuddered in the public toilets of India, where lack of toilet paper is not an oversight. It is by design. There, next to the crapper, is a plastic pitcher full of water. “Where, I asked my host the first time I encountered this phenomenon, is the toilet paper?” He pointed to the pitcher. He made a motion, miming the action of pouring water down one’s posterial crevice. “This is why, in India, we never shake with our left hands.”
But the worst toilet I’ve ever endured was the toilet I went to in San Francisco.
It was at a café in the Mission district called Muddy Grounds.
After a two-hour drive fighting the Bay Area’s typically atrocious traffic, not to mention going along with an unwise decision to visit a Chinese restaurant rated a mere three stars on Yelp, I was, shall we say, hot to trot. I made my way to the restroom which, I was told, I would need to be buzzed into. Apparently, homeless people taking up residence in the loo is a big problem in San Francisco, a city which, Silicon Valley money aside, hasn’t changed much since the Dirty Harry movies.
This used up precious seconds.
By the time I performed the public-toilet hover for Number Two, it was all systems go. But it was one of those messy affairs: neither hard nor liquid, just…malty and sticky. This would take a LOT of TP.
Of which there was … none.
If I were suicidal, this would have been the time to kill myself. What a rookie mistake! How could I not have checked for toilet paper? Basic!
I went for Plan B: paper towels. None.
A business contact was waiting back at a table.
I’m adaptable. Time for the Indian option. “Someday,” I told myself, “I will laugh about this.” Not yet.
I apologized to my left hand, ran water over it, and wiped my ass. This I did repeatedly, rinsing over and over, but as far as I could tell, all I managed to achieve was smearage. The sum total of shit remained the same.
At this point, I cursed God and intelligent design proponents for inventing butt hairs.
Rub. Rinse. Wipe. Rub. Rinse. Wipe. Over and over I rubbed-rinsed-wiped. Then, deciding that nothing more could be done, I went for the soap dispenser.
Which was empty.
Open note to crazy terrorists: If you blow up that bathroom (*without hurting a soul), you will have my support.
I returned to my table, my hand reeking of water mixed with turds, and proceeded to conduct business, and then left for a book signing at the Embarcadero Ferry Terminal, which has a lovely restroom with tons of paper, very clean, lots of hot water and hand soap. There I was able to mitigate the horrors of three hours previous before facing the public.
The skid mark, of course, remained.
Days passed, and I met up with my best friend Cole the film critic, who shares my dislike for San Francisco’s refusal to make an effort to join the civilized world and so I knew would make a receptive audience for this horror story.
After he stopped laughing, Cole said: “You know what I would have done?”
No, I replied.
“I would have taken off my pants, then my underwear. I would have used my underwear, then thrown it away.”
Now you know.
Based in New York, Ted Rall is a syndicated columnist, political cartoonist and war correspondent — and senior commentator here at aNewDomain. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, Ted has recently published his latest book, “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” available now.
Photo credit: Ted Rall