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About toilets

When was the last time you clicked to or stumbled upon this site and found therein a description so scatological, so sordid and wanton, that it bordered on pornographic? Two weeks, maybe three on average? For the rest of today, you’ll be able to answer “a few hours ago”. Here goes nothing.

Like anywhere else in the world, toilets in Vienna (die Toilette, God bless a cognate when you desperately need one) are a necessary part of one’s existence. They aren’t something you usually spend a lot of time contemplating, unless all of a sudden they are transformed into bizarre, alien machines whose design and operation defy your comprehension. That was melodramatic, but suffice it to say that after spending two decades with a single toilet paradigm, adjusting to a separate one is awkward. That’s the problem with paradigms – I’d never considered that an alternative to the standard American toilet, our familiar procelain basin filled with water with the exit pipe near the center, existed. It’s like with chairs: people spent centuries with only one basic design for a chair, and then some hippy comes along and unleashes the ergonomic chair upon the world. But there’s another way to sit out there, people – and another way to crap. Boy is there ever.

Thankfully I wasn’t raised Catholic, or my every trip to the WC in Europe would be a shame-faced ordeal. The essential difference with the porcelain thrones here is that there’s no basin; rather, a ledge six inches below the seat, whereupon your leavings just sort of hang out, as if for easier inspection when you finish. The exit hole is a fairly enormous pipe at the front of the device, and when you flush, water comes rushing from the back of the ledge in a cascade and sweeps everything down and away – at least, in theory. The toilet at my apartment works as its canonical definition dicatates, with a roar of water rivalling the Niagra. The mightiest stool imaginable couldn’t possibly withstand the flow. I’ve had no problems with it.

The one at Kelly’s apartment, however, is another beast entirely. Last night she spent a good dozen swear words upbraiding it and all toilets like it, and I dare say she was justified in doing so. The flow of water in Kelly’s toilet just isn’t sufficient to clear the ledge of even miniscule, er, objects. I don’t know if it’s a water-pressure problem or what, but instead of bearing the contents away to the netherworld of the sewers, the flush just plays with anything sitting on the shelf, like a fond caress. Sometimes even two or three flushes won’t do the trick, and you have to resort to a hands-on approach. Icky.

Kelly says she prefers even the toilets in China to those in Vienna. Having never been to China, I’m not sure how deleterious that statement is to Viennese plumbers, but I’m guessing pretty strongly.

Posted in Musings.


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