I had to use a lot of restraint in writing this post. So many awesome potty-mouth jokes, but I held back… primarily because I would’ve cracked myself up, but most others would’ve been grossed out. Really, though, the jokes were writing themselves, as I’m sure my fellow gutter-humor enthusiasts can imagine.
As far as Taiwanese bathrooms go, ours is among the best. It’s a tiled extravaganza. There’s a sit-down toilet, a large sink, and the shower has a tub, which is fairly uncommon.
Most showers here don’t have doors or curtains or anything to allow for modesty. In fact, the hostel room in Beijing where Shannon and I stayed had a voyeuristic shower and a plate-glass door with only a bit of privacy shading that acted as the bathroom door. If anyone walked past the bathroom and we were inside, they got an eyeful. Surprise!
Back to Taiwan. Toilet paper rolls are uncommon, public restrooms tend not to have any toilet paper at all, and you’re not supposed to flush anything except your natural gifts. To top it off, many public toilets are the squatting kind.
Parents with toddlers will often take the easy route if they’re near a sewer grate and far from a toilet. Step one: sit on feet on the ground next to the grate. Step two: lay kid on lap, face up, butt hanging off the knees and over the grate. Step three: hold kid’s legs up in the air. Kid “discharges” directly into the open sewer, parent cleans up kid with wipes in purse, goes about life as usual.
The first time I saw this was at a mountain day market. I stared. The mom glared back. Of course, I’d announced myself by guffawing (it really was an unfortunate-sounding laugh) when I realized what the kid was doing. When you think about it, though, it’s safer than popping a squat behind some bushes. What if there’s poison ivy? Ants? Bears?
We do use toilet paper in our apartment’s bathroom: it’s in a plastic package and the pieces of pre-cut toilet paper pop up one after another, much like tissues. We also flush anything and everything we deem appropriate. This is one instance where we as foreigners refuse to acclimate.
The tub is fairly tall and quite narrow and the inside is a little higher than the floor. You have to be careful getting in and out. Add in the flat width of the bottom of the tub, which is approximately half the width of my backside, and showering becomes an obstacle course. If I ever wanted to take a bath, I’d barely fit sideways.
The showerhead is connected by a hose to the tub faucet, so the water pressure is similar to a sprinkler with a kink in the hose.
If Gretchen uses the bathroom sink while I’m in the shower, the shower shuts off and the water comes out of the tub faucet. If she turns the sink on, all the way to hot, without using much pressure, the shower will stay on, but the shower water will go ice-cold in a split second. However, if the toilet is flushed while someone’s in the shower, there’s no major effect on the water pressure or the temperature. So that’s a plus.
As I mentioned, there’s not a lot of wiggle room; I’ve slipped just turning around because I accidentally stepped on the upward curve of the tub wall. I’ve pulled moves in our shower that would qualify me for the Olympics. Now I understand why most Taiwanese women don’t shave their legs. It’s dangerous.
Some days I’ve stepped into the shower only to be assaulted in the face by an misfiring spout on the showerhead. Most of the water goes in the right direction, but the rest goes wherever it pleases. I’ve tried to clean the spouts to make them all go in the same direction, but it’s a hopeless endeavor. As long as the water isn’t blinding me, I don’t care.
The drain in the floor is connected to the drain in the tub, so if there’s a problem with the pipes, the tub drains and all the water bubbles up through the floor drain.
If we don’t stop up the tub, the water flows up onto the floor with so much force that there’s a bit of a fountain effect.
Depending on the severity of the clog, it takes anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour for the floor to drain; the tub drains first since it’s higher and narrower. You never walk into our bathroom in socks because you never know if the floor is wet from someone’s shower. Wearing wet socks is among the worst feelings ever.
We had a clog so severe last week that two bottles of Taiwanese Drain-O only managed to drain my wallet (of $7 US, but still). Our landlady came with a plumber on Friday, and she and I expectantly watched the plumber fish for the culprit. I waited for him to pull out a brick, but he retrieved a few clumps of hair and then declared that the evildoer.
Hair? Drain-O at home can tackle that no problem. Whereas the stuff at home carpet bombs the drain and takes no prisoners, the stuff here seems to politely excuse its way past the clog. Unacceptable. All I can surmise is that the roto-rooter contraption did not pull up the true culprit but, in fact, pushed it far enough down that it no longer affects us.
The last time I fully enjoyed and relaxed in a shower was in Hong Kong in September. That was six months ago. (!!!) I’m by no means miserable using our bathroom, but the next time I’m somewhere with a glorious shower, I’ll be in there for a while.