On my first day in Japan, when I accidentally pushed the “flush sound” button on the control panel in a public toilet, I was baffled. I heard the sound, but nothing flushed. I messed around with a few more buttons before finally hitting the right one. I shrugged and chalked it up to the many seemingly frivolous technological odds and ends Japan has to offer.
It wasn’t until I had been working at my school for a few days that the actual function of that silly little sound button became apparent.
The school is old. The building was built over 60 years ago. It’s a not a pretty place by any means, but it serves it’s purpose. The city could probably make extra money renting out space in the hallways as meat lockers during the winter, though.
Anyway, because it’s old, so are all the toilets. No fancy washlette, bum-rinsing contraptions here! We get the good old-fashioned squatty potties.
I must admit, although I’m still not fond of them, I have grown used to the squatties. But what I have not grown used to is that in the absence of the revolutionary “sound princess”, some people flush to cover the sound of their bodily excretions.
Not just once, either. They will continue to flush over the course of their entire time in that stall, because GOD FORBID you hear the sound of #1 or #2 being expelled into the hole in the ground located in a room designed specifically for that purpose.
And the waste! The water waste! I always made fun of my dad for not flushing the toilet in his bathroom at the back of our house. He would claim that he was saving water. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down!” I personally prefer to flush regardless of the color, but…only once. When it’s all said and done, not continuously throughout the deed.
I can tolerate a lot of things without even batting an eyelash. But my cultural sensitivity can only be stretched so far. This is one thing that I refuse to accept (aka I just inwardly scoff in indignation and brood over it until I inevitably get distracted).
And then one day, as I was innocently using the toilet…someone shushed me. Or should I say, shlushed me. Shush + flush. Someone in the bathroom decided I was being too rude or too noisy by not wasting gallons upon gallons of water at a time, and decided to do it for me.
I was appalled. My inner monologue went something like: HOW DARE YOU SHLUSH ME! This is a bathroom! A room full of toilets! A room designed for the specific purpose of emptying disgusting albeit totally normal bodily waste into these stupid holes in the ground. It’s no mystery what any of us are doing in here!
Now that I’ve had some distance from the slushing incident, I find it all kind of hilarious. Upon further reflection, I wonder if maybe it was just a coincidence of timing, and I just interpreted someone else’s own pee-shyness for shlushing. That’s totally possible. They say cultural frustration can result in paranoia and perceived slights. I suppose we’ll never know the truth.
Regardless, I continue to go about my bathroom business unabashedly. Ain’t nobody got time to be worrying about that stuff anyway!