Potty Talk

Elimination is not a pretty subject. But it’s something most of us do every day so I thought I would share some of my loo experiences of the last couple of days. One of the things that strike me when I return to Canada, especially since my Cuban husband has also drawn my attention to the subject, is the cleanliness of the public bathrooms. In Cuba we mainly avoid them if at all possible. I also try to hold on and prefer not to use them on planes. On my husband’s visits to Canada he was often impressed by the spic & span bathrooms in the shopping malls, movie theatres, restaurants, even ferries (which he found especially impressive since he didn’t even see a single bathroom attendant anywhere during the 1-hour crossing). I began to wonder if he might have some kind of a bladder problem when we walked just a block from my family’s Charlottetown home to the grocery store and he was looking for the bathroom as soon as we went in. I asked him why he was always going to the bathroom everywhere we went and he said he was just marveling at how each one was as clean as the last, sometimes even cleaner than our bathroom at home. Each one equipped with running hot & cold water, soap & all the toilet paper you want free for the taking…

You don’t appreciate these things unless you’ve known or lived otherwise. In Cuba many public restrooms have attendants who will give you four or five squares of tp when you go in, then go in behind you and dump a bucket of water down the toilet when you’ve finished. A tip is expected when you leave. Many of them pay a tax to the government to be able to occupy this position of employment.

On a motorcycle trip last winter with some Cuban friends I took these pictures in a public bathroom that was particularly clean, smelled good, and was at the very top of the scale of public Cuban bathrooms. You still had to take your own tp (pass it over the top of the stall to your friends), but what did that matter when the bathroom had running water in sinks and toilets and was sparkling?

I probably shouldn’t tell you this story, but quite a few years back a friend’s parents were doing a Fly/Drive holiday in Cuba with my friend’s aunt & uncle and the aunt’s watch fell into a public toilet she’d used in a Cupet gas station. The toilet had no running water, and I guess someone had used it before her (don’t you love these details?!). She really liked the watch and it was expensive – she was always a very well-dressed, attractive woman. I don’t know what she promised in return, but she somehow managed to convince her husband (these guys will do the wildest things to keep their wives happy on vacation) to fish it out for her. They told us this story over dinner their last night in Havana.

Continuing on with the latest episode in my toilet tales, when I arrived in PEI, no sooner than we’d left the airport and my Dad was telling me about his latest green business venture. For those of you who don’t know about the eternal entrepreneur’s background, in the mid 70’s he began business in PEI with a woodstove & windmill business, protesting nuclear power, we ran our Wood Islands house on wind power for 5 years until Mom couldn’t stand it anymore (the technology wasn’t then what it is now), and also kept our own animals and organic gardens. The bicycle business has been in our family since 1977. Some people say he was a man before his time. Many other seasonal operations were experimented with until we found a match with Cuba in the early 1990’s. These days Gordon tends to the urban gardens around our Charlottetown energy-efficient property and head office. As we were leaving the airport he told me that he’s now selling compostable toilets. Here’s our exchange:
“Do you mean you’re selling people the idea of them, or are you actually selling the toilets Dad?”
“I’m selling the toilets. I have one down in the basement. I wish I would have installed them in the whole building last year. I sold two already.”
I couldn’t believe it. He’s just become the dealer for compostable toilets on PEI.

My sister-in-law had made dinner for us all and after dinner my Mom said that he goes down there and uses it every day. He wanted to know if I wanted to go and see it. Not particularly, Dad. But thanks for the offer to go see your toilet. Mom thinks it’s gross, wants to know if he put a seat on it yet. Dad’s going to be using it on the garden.
If you’re going to be in PEI, come on down and see my Dad’s personal throne. It sounds like he’s eager to show it off. He might even try and sell you one.

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