The first time I ever saw one, I fell in love.
I was staying at a very expensive hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. – one of my more radical efforts at persuading some comely lass that she could do worse than bedding down with me for the night despite my less than impressive bank book. The fact that I lost the girl, ended up spending the night alone, and got charged $75 bucks for a bottle of flat champagne is one more reason I should write some kind of history detailing my many outrageously failed and sadly ironic amours. I can’t promise too many racy anecdotes but as a cautionary tale/tragedy, it could end up being a bestseller.
But back to the matter at, er…hand. I noticed when getting ready for my doomed from the start date that the bathroom seemed particularly well equipped. In fact, there appeared to be two toilets. “So this is how the rich live,” I thought. “Must be nice. One toilet to sit down on and another to piss standing up.”
But this second toilet appeared to contain enough differences that I felt a thorough investigation was called for. There appeared to be some kind of bizarre structure to the metal assembly at the bottom of the bowl. I didn’t think it was some kind of fancy drain but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out just what function the strange grouping of what appeared to be towers and bars might be for. It looked like a miniature from the set of Metropolis.
Kneeling in front of the contraption, I noticed a knob on the side. Recognizing that when twisted it would turn water on somewhere, I was thinking to myself “Jesus! Are the wealthy really able to control the flush of their own toilets? Now that’s what I call power.”
Not hardly. A face full of water disabused me of that notion right pronto. The metal assembly was a complex, elegant water disbursal system and the knob controlled the force of the water that shot from the metal assembly at the bottom of the bowl.
Now I will admit to being something of a rube about many things in life. I am a simple, dumb American when it comes to food, clothing, alcoholic beverages, and art. I like my sports violent and my sex hot, sweaty, and loud. And if someone disses my country or the flag I take it very personally.
Having said that, I confess that I pondered the utility of this nameless bathroom contraption for about 10 minutes before the light bulb went off. “Aha! What will those Europeans think of next.”
Notice that I automatically assumed a European ancestry for the beast. No self respecting American would squat like a Sumo wrestler over an open cave of porcelain even if the end result would be fewer pairs of undies needing an extra dab of Spray and Wash to get out those “stubborn stains.” But at the same time, a wave of jealousy washed over me and I envied our cousins across the sea. It means that European bathrooms are probably bigger than my kitchen. And any married couple in a hurry to get out the door in the morning can attest to the dire straits of American home design where closet sized bathrooms seem to be the norm and the fights that break out over premium space in front of the sink (and hence, the mirror) have been the cause of upping our country’s already astronomical divorce rate.
It was only later on that I connected the word “bidet” (pronounced “B-day”) with the gizmo I’d seen at the hotel. And proving once and for all that you can find anything on the internet, I dug up this little history of the contraption along with some surprising uses those marvelously clever Europeans put it to:
The bidet is certainly an invaluable aid to hygiene, and can be especially helpful among the elderly and those with handicaps. Another valuable feature of the dear bidet is its use as a “sitz bath” or “hip bath.” This is a type of bath in which only the hips and buttocks are soaked in a saline or salty water. “Sitzen” in German means “to sit”. Many diseases and discomforts are remedied in a sitz bath; patients of surgery, infections of the bladder or vagina, even to ease the pain of hemorrhoids. In the United States, the bidet has developed an aura of indelicacy, mostly for its principle use; to wash the private parts, but its funny, because its purpose can be extended – used even to wash lingerie and soak feet!
All of this becomes relevant when discussing Sheryl Crow’s idea that the government should build toilet paper dispensing machines that hand out one square of paper per customer. No more, no less. One square of toilet paper or you are branded “not very green at all” and are shunned by your neighbors, your brainwashed children, dogs, cats, and the rest of civilized society.
Of course, there are other things you can do to be green. Like giving up your private jets. Or even foreswearing electric guitars, amplifiers, microphones, synthesizers, and all other electronic means of making music which use carbon polluting electricity generated by dirty power plants. Also, the production of CD’s is among the most polluting activities known to man. (Ever see the leftover sludge from the metals contained in a CD?) And giving up concerts where tens of thousands of people make the pilgrimage to your appearance in not very eco-friendly automobiles would probably do more to stop global warming than 300 million people walking around smelling like a sewer because they were unable to properly attend to the hygienic necessities as a result of eating solid food.
Perhaps Ms. Crow doesn’t realize that her suggestion is a washout because when she takes a crap, something much different emerges to plop into the toilet than what normal humans may be used to seeing. Perhaps she is special in this regard and only the very best of stools – well formed, neat, symmetric, and smelling like a Texas yellow rose – are gifted to the world.
Maybe someone will slip Ms. Crow a little Ex Lax. Serve her right for meddling with the primal forces of nature, trying to come between an American citizen and his Charmin. And I’d love to be there when she’s forced to use that one square of TP after the explosion of “reality” that the Ex Lax supplies.
Of course, there’s always the B-Day.
This BBC story is self explanatory. And unintentionally funny.