Tuesday, February 16

A Year (or Two) in Kenya: Squat toilets

I have a friend who once argued that the Western world took a precipitous turn downward when it opted to throw its lot behind leavened bread. We were eating naan at the time, and I was prone to believe him. Any sins that fell upon us for this transgression, however, are more than forgiven for our invention of the modern flush toilet. This longing for a proper place to evacuate my waste has already been documented, but allow me the opportunity to elaborate on this Mardi Gras.

The bathroom should be a place of peace and repose. I hear the Filippinos call them "comfort rooms," and that is entirely approrpriate. When you are there, it is your kingdom, albeit temporary. Even in public bathrooms with lines of stalls and a single, long urinal there is a certain intimacy. Etiquette demands you do not talk, and frequent partitions provide more than reasonable privacy. It is a place of relaxation, a place to release all the muscles.

Squat toilets fail to provide this basic environment. The simple fact is that relaxation is impossible above them. Yes, they do provide an opportunity to politely open the sphincter, but this is immediately counter-acted by the stress put upon the hamstrings and upon the arms from grasping the crossbeam on the door to maintain balance and avoid an ignominous fall. What should be a gentle time is now a savage ballet of grip, balance and aim. A really bad ballet.

For the longest time I believed that it was simply impossible for whites to assume the position, that it was a petty revenge for decades of colonization and a lack of success in the Winter Olympics. Then I saw The Grapes of Wrath and realized it was something we had lost through lack of practice. That guy was squat-walking all over the place.


Anonymous said...


Not all of us are as graceful and/or flexible to master the art of the squat toilet.


adventures north said...

the technical term would be "squatty potty"