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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

the peculiarities of russian national flushing

well i've stayed silent on the subject for long enough. russian bathrooms. russian toilets. for whatever reason, travelers always feel obligated to share their observations on the matter, and i won't be excluded. i have rather a lot i'd like to share, so i'm going to go in a more or less chronological order.

first and foremost, a few general observations. i get the feeling that at some point the soviet union decided that people don't have sex, and don't excrete waste. at least not soviet people on the road to building socialism. (you're a naughty boy, and that's concentrated evil coming out of the back of you). bathrooms, i suspect, still aren't cleaned or maintained because in the soviet union no one was supposed to have to clean up other people's shit. maybe it's bad to blame too much of contemporary russia on holdovers from possible soviet mentalities, but it passes the time.

bathroom markings. the signs. the illustrations. the excuse me, where is the bathroom. needless to say, back home i'm used to knowing where the bathroom is in many places, and at the very worst i can follow the signs. in russia there is no open way of knowing that people actually go to the bathroom. at best, you might find a triangle on a door, the direction of which is important. they seem to have taken the beloved illustrations of the broad-shouldered narrow-waisted man and the narrow shouldered-large-dress-wearing-(or very pregnant) woman and lopped their heads off. i'm not really sure what this accomplishes, but there you have it. to be fair, i've seen a couple signs for the WC, notably at yaroslavl's new hockey arena.

then there's the clockwise counter-clockwise question. at some point in the history of world exploration, someone wrecked it for all of us and suggested that it had something to do with the equator. tragically, that someone froze to death trying to install and flush a toilet at the south pole, and he probably never even thought to ask how they flush in russia. but for the rest of you:

you almost invariable pull up or push down some circular flushing mechanism on the top of the tank, where there's supposed to be a magazine or something. then a peculiar thing- the water comes rushing down and it doesn't swirl at all. it's almost like on airplanes where there is the tremendous sucking mechanism, only not with all the chemicals. then there's russian trains, where you flush the toilet and watch a hole open up to the tracks below. so yeah, if you were ever wondering. russians do go to the bathroom, and they have terrifying and incomprehensible toilets.

also there's a constant lack of toilet paper. this is relatively easy to figure out.

then, there is the a nation-wide lack of toilet seats.

i don't know where they go, or if they ever were. i don't know if they just break and aren't replaced? if they are stolen? and if so why? they just aren't. and it's clear that they won't soon be, because no one seems to mind. even in relatively nice restaurants and cafes more often then not toilet seats are not to be found. maybe you have to rent them from behind the bar when you pay to use the toilet. the implications are easily enough discerned. i think this might have something to do with why russians are always hurrying along somewhere and not looking or smiling at anyone.