For those of us ladies who have a difficult time getting down into a squat, China is a challenging country to visit.
Virtually all of their public toilets are of the squat variety.
My recent trip to China involved a great deal of bus and train transit, in order to visit a number of counties in the Xiaanxi Provence. This predicated quite a few stops in public restrooms along the highways. Something that is challenging at best, impossible at worst.
I found myself choosing dehydration over public toilets for most of the journey, opting instead to drink gallons of water once back at the hotel. This of course, meant at least three trips to the bathroom during the night, but interrupted sleep was far superior to the horror of the public toilets we encountered.
There were six American women on my tour bus, and at each stop we’d cautiously approach the rest stop bathrooms, our feet entering the large spaces well ahead of our noses. We’d often skedaddle right back outside, sometimes crashing into each other, if the stench was too atrocious. But if necessity outweighed disgust, we’d look for the one handicapped toilet that could accommodate our needs. More often than not, the handicapped stall was used as a broom and storage closet, and we’d be chased out by a mop-wielding warrior screaming something indecipherable in Chinese.
As the fifteen-day journey wore on, all of us (the last hold-out being yours truly) managed to figure out some form of a squat that didn’t get too much splatter on the pants. I’d watched many Chinese ladies rolling up their pant legs before braving the stalls, but even with that prep work, it’s a gamble when your knees no longer bend past 45 degrees.
There are many interesting factoids about those Chinese stalls. There were usually about a dozen, all of which were squats…with the occasional facility that offered one handicapped (ie: standard seated toilet). None of the stalls had grab bars and worse…none had toilet paper.
I discovered the TP issue at our first stop, and went into the mini mart to purchase a large packet…becoming the group’s self-proclaimed TP Queen. I was the supplier at subsequent stops, but could do nothing to help with the condition of the stalls. It appears that while the population is very persnickety about sweeping the public sidewalks, they don’t feel a strong urge to flush.
And let me tell you something. If you think a port-a-potty has an unpleasant odor…you ain’t smelled NUTTIN’, honey. Most port-a-potties use chemicals to aid in the breakdown of contents and smells, and while the chemicals add to the eau d’pee-ew, they do, indeed mask some of the horror.
I’ve mentioned the mop-wielding warrior? One could be found in most public restrooms. And they all did a mighty fine job of keeping the common area outside of the stalls bright and shiny. But I have to wonder if their job descriptions included the toilet stalls themselves?
Our bus driver tried to find the best rest stops for us, and I kept thinking he was failing miserably. But when he pulled up to a remote roadside public toilet, I realized he really had been trying. The roadside offering was a small blue building with two entries, and inside the ladies’ half were two open pits. I’ll let you use your imagination. Go darker. Nope…worse.
So we came to appreciate the rest stops, even stopped lining up for the sole non-flushing handicapped stall, and became brave victors of the squat.
I chatted with a young lady from China, asking if she was horrified by public toilets, too. She admitted that they were “not pleasant,” but she understood how Americans must feel, because she had visited the United States a few years prior.
“Your toilets so CLEAN!” she gushed. “They smell like FLOWER! I want to STAY at American toilet!”
I laughed and assured her that they weren’t THAT clean, but a definite improvement over the toilets I’d visited in China.
“And you give FREE toilet tissue! Why free?”
What a novel question.
I’ll never complain again when I’m sitting in a stall and the roll dispenser is rigged to break the tissue off after each square. Hey, it’s FREE.