Monday, August 25, 2008

To sit or to squat

Be warned. If you're not interested in reading a potty story, leave now. If you're like most of my friends and consider toilet humor to be the apex of modern culture, keep reading.

Melissa, Jack and I were walking through a mall on Saturday during our trip to check out Chinatown (that's for another post) when Jack announces he needs to use the potty. Being the amazing dad that I am, I dutifully hold his hand and start walking toward a dark back corner of the mall that the blue restroom signs pointed me toward.

He and I walk through a pretty busy hallway that leads toward the loading dock, past some guy with 6 teeth sitting at a small desk, and finally into a busy restroom. I point to the child height urinal and tell Jack to get started.

"No Daddy, I need to poop."

"Ok, but all the (4) stalls are full. Let's wait for one to open."

After a minute, the stall on the far right opens up and we start to walk in. Here's what we see.

Damn it! What the hell am I supposed to do with this thing?!? My kid's got his hand on his ass trying to hold the poop in and I'm staring at what might as well be a hole in the dirt floor of a log cabin in 1765. I don't get it. I'm pretty good about adapting to cultural differences, but the Asian style toilet is where I draw the line. I just don't get it. Why would I want to squat like I'm over a hole in the ground with my butt hanging in the air like I'm Godzilla bombing Tokyo? And what do you do with your pants?!? If they're around your ankles, aren't you going to crap right into them? Do you pull them forward? Just take them off? I need answers!

"Uh-oh Daddy," says Jack.

"Darn, lets wait for another one," I say.

Another full minute or two go by and another stall opens. This one is a regular American style commode but of course, another problem. There's no seat. Just porcelain.

"Can you wait for another to open, Jack?"

"I think so," he says.

Finally a third one opens, but again, no seat, just porcelain.

"It's ok Daddy. I can do it," says Jack. What a (pooper) trooper.

So the little guy heads in there and I guess he just hung his little cheeks over the edge of the bowl. I was standing outside of the stall just waiting to hear a splash. That would have been all I needed. My son's little buns stuck in a commode with the stall door locked and me trying to break the door down to yank him out. Remember, through all of this, dozens of people are coming and going wondering why the tall Ang Mo is standing around in the bathroom.

Of course, the saga isn't nearly over.

"Daddy....there's no toilet paper."


Take a deep breath Tremblay. Don't lose it now. If you just punch a random guy in the face in a Singaporean bathroom, it might make you feel better, but it won't help the situation.

"Ok buddy. Give me a minute for another stall to open and I'll get you some."

"Ok Daddy."

It took a good three minutes for another stall to open up. Trust me, that's a long time when your kid is waiting to wipe the poop off his butt. Of course, there was no paper in that one either.

Not only was there no paper, there was no dispenser! What the hell are these people using to wipe themselves?!? Are they bringing paper from home? I've seen three different people come out of the toilet after being in there for 5 minutes. Is there some secret toilet paper society in Singapore I don't know about?

"Jack, stay put. Don't open the door until I come back."

"Ok Daddy."

I've now left my 6 year old son alone in a public bathroom while I go on a toilet paper hunt. I may not be the worst dad ever, but I'm in the hunt for the title.

Now, remember that desk I walked past on the way toward the bathroom? What I didn't notice was the small sign on the front. It looked like someone had taken the top of a shoe box and scrawled on it, "Toilet, 10 cents."

The guy with six teeth had a little pile of dimes and a very bored expression on his face. My guess is that this guy didn't even work for the mall. He could have easily just walked in there, sat down and put up a sign. This is Singapore. If there's a sign, you must comply. (Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.)

The only thing that made me give this guy a second look was the three industrial size rolls of TP on the floor behind him. I walked up to who was now the most influential person in my life and dropped a dime on his desk.

"Toilet paper?" I asked. He just grunted at me and pointed at the wall near the door to the bathroom.

There, hanging about 5 feet off the floor was a big roll of beautiful toilet paper. It's "community" toilet paper, I guess. Why on earth you would put the TP there I have no idea, but at that point I didn't care.

I jogged over and pulled off a few feet looking like a magician pulling out that big long handkerchief that just keeps coming and coming out of his sleeve. The fact that I've been reduced to announcing to half the mall that there will be butt wiping in my future eludes me for the moment. I'm just too elated at the thought of finally being done with the bathroom from hell.

Compared to the rest of the experience, things end smoothly. Jack wipes up, washes his hands, and he and I head back to mommy who's been waiting near the stationary store the entire time.

"What took you guys so long?"


Melissa said...

I laughed so hard last night when Matt told me this story and re-reading it just now I still laughed just as hard. Glad it wasn't me, but if it was I always carry napkins in my purse. Yet another thing Singapore doesn't seem to use when eating, along with forks, knives, table sugar, and fast service.

Julie Tracey said...

matt, this story is hilarious!!! poor Jack! but you're right - what a trouper!

Lynnda Pekel said...

OMG, how funny. I guess that is a lesson learned :) Just a warning, never go on a (road) trip to France, they only have the squat toilets. According to the French Society of poopers, it's healthier that way, right.