There aren’t many times — especially in this day and age — when I’m prepared to take a hard line defending America. But on one subject, I’ll wave the flag all day long yelling, “America RUUUUUUULLLEESSS!” I can confidently say, in the world, maybe even in the Universe, America, hands down does bathrooms better than anyone else. It’s an epiphany I have after every weekend in Sonoma spent using an Incinolet toilet (see how it works to left) and showering outdoors. Actually, our set up is about as convenient and sanitary as you can expect out in the woods. And it’s not that bad, except on a cold morning like this one where you really start to debate the merits of a shower a day when faced with toweling off in 45 degree weather with two deer looking on.
But deprived of the full superiority of normal American plumbing, I do get very ready to slap on an American flag lapel pin, switch on Bill O’Reilly and blast Liberals who run down our troops. Say it loud and proud, America does bathrooms best! And I have the authority to make this statement, having sampled plumbing — and kept meticulous notes — across the globe.
Okay, the Victorian English pretty much invented the concept of the modern bathroom as we know it. But British plumbing, even if you are in a good hotel, is always just a little bit cranky and somewhat eccentric. Sort of like the British themselves.
You’d think Germans, with their Teutonic efficiency, would master bathrooms. No, they’re efficient, all right, but a little bit cold and impersonal. Sort of like the Germans themselves.
I’m not an Ugly American. When I go to a Third World or developing country, I make allowances. I’ve seen some horrific bathroom situations in Bali, Asia and North Africa. But the only people I can’t forgive are the French. How can they strut around acting like they are the arbiters of taste and fine living when even the rest rooms in the Louvre would send a Calcutta street person screaming in horror? In France, you learn to go in the morning, in the barely adequate but somewhat controlled environment of your hotel, then hold it all day long, lest you lose whatever wonderful lunch you just ate in that cute bistro. In fact, the cute bistro that produced that wonderful meal is probably where you will find a particularly horrible and odiferous cellpit of an alleged public toilet. Sorry, but it makes me wonder about kitchen hygiene. I guess, when in France, as in when eating street food in Asia, it’s better not to think about it.
You might argue that the Japanese with their addiction to new gizmos and obsession with cleanliness would have the best bathrooms. But you would be wrong. Sure, in Japan I’ve seen public toilets that warmed the seat and varied the pressure as you sat on them, sprayed you with minty fresh disinfectant as you flushed, then proceeded to sanitize the entire stall before the next patron arrived. But there’s more to a good bathroom than technology. In fact, there is such a thing as TOO MUCH technology. Especially when, like Japanese facilities, it starts to invade your very, very personal space.
Nope, Americans understand that bathrooms have to have high functionality, but still the sort of hominess and intimacy that encourages you to . . .uh, relax.
So let’s hear it for American bathrooms. The world may be appalled at Bush’s war and our invasive Pop culture. But we sure as hell are getting something right.