Bowel movements are a private ritual, not something that outsiders should trifle with. When I was 11 years old, I went to Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) in Russia, with my Father. This was a couple of years before the fall of communism, so everything was pretty dire there. Not sure how it is now, probably still pretty dire.
At some point I’ll have to talk about the horrors of the food, but for now I will limit myself to the bathrooms, the Public Bathrooms to be specific. Not sure if they were actually public though, or if they were private, or perhaps public and just required a permanent staff person. Regardless of the reason, the first thing you encounter upon entering the men’s bathroom is a Russian woman, sitting behind a counter. Turns out you had to pay her 10 kopecks to use the bathroom. Already, multiple things had gone wrong for me in this adventure:
1. Woman in men’s bathroom
2. Paying to go to the bathroom
But the real fun started when I was ready to find myself some toilet paper. Being a pampered American, I assumed that the toilet paper would be in easy reach, bleached to a reassuring white color, and conveniently rolled onto a dispenser.
Instead I found a pail of shredded newspaper.
I was, at that time, too young to have seen the movie Demolition Man, but should I have, I am sure that this image would have come to mind:
Now I knew why it cost money to go to the bathroom in Russia. Someone had to be busy shredding all those newspapers. Probably the woman at the front, or perhaps her children, slaving away in some room, shredding the Moscow Times and putting it into pails, committing it to it’s shameful fate.
All of this was not fun. My dad probably thought it would ‘build character.’
It probably did.
Today my father mainly leaves the character-building to my wife, who is always challenging me in new ways, including in the areas of stool production:
ME: “What’s this?”
WIFE: “It’s a stool for when you go number 2!”
ME: “I’d prefer to sit, thank you.”
WIFE: “OF COURSE you SIT, but then you put your feet up, like this.”
WIFE: “It helps position your body in a more natural form for bowel movements. Sitting upright is totally unnatural.”
WIFE: “So you’ll use it?”
ME: “I will try the stools stool”
WIFE: “Don’t call it that”
It’s actually pretty awesome. You should try it.
NEXT WEEK, ON THE CRUNCHY DUNGEON: