Embarrassingly, comparative toiletry is one of my favorite topics. See my popular post on “How well do you wipe?” which questions our poop parochialism. Today’s post will compare some North European toilets to American toilets and perhaps further expand your scatological perspective.
To the right is a pic of the toilet and shower rooms at our Dutch host’s apartment this summer. Most of our couchsurfing hosts had two different rooms for these functions and they also had toilet designs I had never seen. Let me first describe what I admired about these toilets:
- Privacy & Efficiency: Separating the toilet and shower room allows two people to have private activities simultaneously. Whereas, American toilets are often in the same room as the bathtub/shower which is a design that sacrifices privacy for spaciousness and, for the shy, hinders the flow of traffic.
- Aromatically Safe Showers: With this European design, a refreshing shower does not need to be ruined by someone’s copious emergency dump.
3. Efficiency: My last applause for their toilets’ design was the ubiquitous, ecofriendly, dual flush system seen here to the left. The large circle on the left is for a large poop flush and the dainty little right circle is for a tiny pee flush. It made a lot of sense to me. Besides being politically correct, those who wake at night to pee do not have to debate whether to leave a surprise for others in the morning or to wake them with a loud flush. They can flush quietly and respectfully. Mind you, I don’t suffer from nocturia (yet) but am an early riser and it works for me too.
But now we come to my criticisms:
- Stinky: All our hosts’ toilets had an observatory deck design. With this design, poop gradually gathers on the observatory deck and is exposed to the air before flushing at the end of your mission. The result: the tiny room’s air quickly informed you about your bowel movement’s fragrance. In our American toilets, the load drops immediately into a pristine pool of water where it has minimal time to aerosolize and the odor is contained (well, at least for fast, non-hanging dumps).
I can only imagine three possible advantages of this observation deck: (a) it may allow you to save flush water (b) it may allow some to do a thorough search of their poo for drugs they may have muled into the country or guitar picks they may have accidentally swallowed and (c) it avoids splash-back. But I can’t believe that these potential benefits are worth the smell of such a wafting aromatic set up.
- Messy: Finally, another important criticism of the observatory platform was the need to clean. After flushing, if your stool is the least bit soft, a brown trail will remain and then the flusher must decide if he or she will clean the trail of shame for the next person or not. Today I asked my son what he did in Europe and he says he never cleaned the toilet, whereas I (with a higher sense of shame) cleaned it when necessary.
After writing this post, I found this wiki article which tells us that the “Das Flachspüler” [flat-rinse] was designed in Germany and is generally known as a “washout toilet”. Among toilet designers (a unique job) is also known as a “reverse bowl design”. This reverse design, in fact, initially had me wonder if I should straddle my host’s toilet it like a wild bronco! (kidding)
The article also concurs that the observation deck is meant for inspecting your poop and to avoid the splash-up that occurs from people pinching off several small big bombs as opposed to one, long, splashless slider (itself having a fragrance issue). Wheew, I wasn’t being weird — the wiki article agrees with my observations. See, I am wiki-normal.
It seems there is no perfect toilet design — or as my post here phrase this generalizable observation of the world, “You must choose your shit pile.”
Question to readers: After all this info, if you were a toilet designer, how would you improve your scatological life?