SQUATMASTER   Leave a comment

I’ve
 held a few titles in my life. Writer, Intern, sometimes traveler… but now I can 
add a new one to the list:

SQUATMASTER.

I worried about using tiny toilets in Japan. Not because of my monstrous size,
 but small toilets are like little divas; they need lots of attention and they 
can snap at any moment. The mechanics of their use can be troublesome. The
 knobs to flush are really tiny, and if the bathroom is equally tiny, good luck
 trying to flush, or reach for the roll of toilet paper directly behind your 
shoulder blades.  I frightened 
myself with these images constantly before I came to Japan, imaging myself 
stuck in a bathroom unable to leave because I wouldn’t be able to grab any 
tissue. As time passed I realized I wouldn’t have to deal with this issue,
 because almost everywhere I went, there were no toilets.

Just holes in the ground.

These are the toilets of the future. Simple and to the point. You pee in the floor, 
you squat to take a dump, but you better aim carefully. The first time I saw on
e of these “holes”, I thought it was just a urinal, but then I saw a roll of 
tissue paper beside the smallest garbage receptacle i’ve ever seen. In the last
 few weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a cycle of eating that finds me 
at home should I need to use the throne. But the first time I saw the shiny
 porcelain toilet, gurgling in the ground, I new eventually we’d meet again.
 That was yesterday.

Yesterday

I’m in the bathroom, and I’m debating. I’m wondering if I should clamp up and wait
 five hours before I go home, or lose my squatting virginity. I stand in the
 shadows of the dark bathroom, looking through a stained glass. I laugh at 
myself and remember the term ‘Squatmaster’ from high school in Jamaica. When 
you need to use a really digusting public bathroom, you don’t sit on the seat,
 you squat over it to protect yourself from diseases and infections. I’d never 
been in a situation that required the use of this technique. Now, in Japan, I’m
 pacing around in a small bathroom with tiny blue tiles, figuring out my
 strategy. I said what the heck.

I stepped into the bathroom and shut the door. It was very small–no more than
 five square feet–and I stood there, figuring out the logistics. Number one, I
 have bad knees. I can barely dance much less squat carefully to get rid of my 
body’s excreta. Number two, there were any variety of unknown things that could 
happen once I turned around, and pulled my pants down. I crouched, feeling 
quite infantile. Then I smiled, because for millions of Japanese people, this 
was normal. My pants came down with a swoosh.

Then I realized, I should have hung up my pants. Overhead was a hook on the door,
 but it was too late, I’d already started. I felt a little panicked. Where my 
pants going to get smudged, or wet? I barely had space to move, much less 
manouver. I treid reach back for the toilet paper, but my hand kept hitting a
wall. “Dammit.” I said, trying to shuffle properly. I couldn’t move. Any 
movement of my feet a few inches to the left or right and my pants would be
 soggy with toilet water. Or I’d dunk a shoe in the toilet. I glanced up at the 
hook again and groaned.

My thighs were hurting now and I could feel it in my knees. This certainly wasn’t 
the sweet relief I’m accustomed to. I wondered if people squat and read. It 
didn’t seem likely.

I brought my self up into a half crouch, my entire body trembling. Making sure 
not to get my belt or pants wet, I slowly removed one shoe. Tiny beads of sweat 
formed on my forehead. My level of concentration was high; I felt like I was
 diffusing a nuclear weapon. I took off the other shoe, shaking like a leaf. I 
got my pants off and went back into the normal squat. It was a good thing the 
doors were small, I could hang up my pants easily.

I breathed more easily, but it wasn’t over. I was concerned about aim, because if
I didn’t aim properly, I’d be the obvious culprit and I could never some into 
the establishment again. I was skating on thin ice. I tried to remember my 
early potty lessons. All I got were a few blurry images of a smelly yellow
 potty from twenty years ago. The ease with which little kids do what they had
 to do eluded me, I almost laughed.

I grunted and shuffled forward. I was good to go.

After I was done, I hit another snag. Toilet paper. The toilet paper was on a roll in
t he corner of the bathroom. I had no space to move. I couldn’t turn around to
 grab it, and now my legs were really starting to feel it. I wondered how the 
hell people were comfortable doing this.

I took a deep breath. Above me were two replacement rolls on a tiny shelf above 
my right shoulder. Slamming my elbow into the wall as I reached up, I grabbed a
 roll. I paused as I held it in my hand. Wiping logistics had changed. The way a 
person cleans themselves changes drastically when you are stooping and 
trembling. I missed the comfort of my toilet.

I was wearing a long sleeved shirt,
 which made things even more interesting. One slip up and I’d be scrubbing the
 end of my shirtsleeve for a while before I came out of the bathroom. Thirty
 seconds later, I was done. No scuffs, no smudges.

I stood up and my thighs screamed with relief. I felt massive in the tiny space;
 this kind of thing was definitely not designed with me in mind. Images of small 
Asian men and women squatting on millions of these things popped into my head.
 Talk about culture shock.

I slipped my pants back on and did a proper hand wash. I never thought a daily 
bodily would function could double as a workout. This, I said to myself, will
 not become a habit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: