(For other posts in this series, click here)
Shortly after our arrival in China, I discovered, much to my naive American snobbishness, that not everyone uses the restroom the same way. It seems I had been using a Western toilet for my entire life, or a "sitter." In China, sitters are not as common as a Westerner might hope. (Neither is soap or toilet paper, our tour guide informed us the next day, but he always let us know when and where Western toilets could be found!) Hence, I opened the bathroom door at the very urban airport to find this:
No instructions. No toilet paper. Just a recessed urinal-type device. Had I gone into the men's room? Doubtful. Should I sit on top of it? Probably not. Putting my college education to good use, I surmised that I should engage in some sort of hovering maneuver. I cast a look back at the kind cleaning lady, who smiled wanly and urged me into the stall with the handle of her mop. She was obviously not going to be a help. I decided to step in and try my luck - my bad luck, that is.
|What should have been on the restroom sign at the airport.|
As I carefully prepared to use my first squatter, I decided to hold on to the door lock for balance. Bad move. As I reached out to grab it, my foot slid on a slick spot on the floor and went over my head while my hand hit the lock and knocked the door open. My ummm... hinder parts went under the stall to my left, my feet slid under the stall to my right, and I found myself lying sideways in said squatter. Not at all the pose I was aiming for. The woman in the stall where my feet wound up began shrieking in rapid Chinese, perhaps surprised to have company while squatting.
The Canadian woman to my left, who was on our tour, asked if I was ok, then chuckled when she heard my uncontrollable laughter. After determining that nothing was wounded (besides my pride), I realized I no longer had to use the restroom and walked out with what little dignity I had left, my head held high. (It turns out that nicer restrooms have someone mop after each use, hence the wet floor.)
I did master this bathroom feat the following day, determined to "get back on the horse" that had so viciously thrown me off. And, just so you know that Westerners aren't the only ones who need a little help when encountering a new culture, I found this very helpful picture on a website about Western toilets:
I'd love to hear the story that inspired this little sign!!