22 January 2010

I feel like my whole life is going down the toilet...

Ok, that's not true. But I feel like I spend much of my "blogging life" talking about toilets. Well, I guess it is time to get my monthly potty chat taken care of.

But I have a really good reason this time, because here's the thing: travel books are great, but there are plenty of things that they don't tell you. (That's right. You are an intelligent person, and you have read this blog enough to know where I am going with this....) They don't tell you about the quality of toilets. They also don't really tell you how friendly or unfriendly (cough, Rome) people will be. Nor do they really tell you how expensive things will be. Sure, the one, two, or three dollar sign symbol gives you a ballpark idea of the price range of a restaurant. But let's be realistic. When "$" represents all restaurants that range from 0-$25 for a meal, all this does is let me know that I certainly can't afford to eat at any of the other restaurants. And in reality, I need at least three distinctions within the 0-25 category in order for that to be useful. It kind of reminds me of sales (back in the US...I don't shop here. After all, there is no reliable source of information about how expensive things are...And converting any price (that isn't required for my survival--aka food) into GBPs is just depressing) when they would inform you that everything on a given table was $5 AND UP?! Unless you are at the Everything's a Dollar Store, I don't see any reason why this is a great announcement (and if you are at the Dollar Store, this would be a really bad advertising strategy). After all, the regular prices are well over $5, so it almost makes me angry that you call this a sale and pretend that you somehow did something special for me in order to get all of the prices over $5. Thanks.

Soap box, away. And now back to toilets--the thing that no travel guide tells you about. Have no fear, my own personal Rough-er Travel Guide is here to assist you.

And the award for the most bizarre, shocking, and confusing toilets goes to.....Istanbul.

This is the first toilet that greeted me in the airport in Istanbul. Sure, on first glance it doesn't appear that different. Until you notice what I will call the "water fountain" that is not for drinking. I had heard of these, and I know that they have an official name that I refuse to use, just like I refused to use the "fountain" itself. Its presence just created a lot of uncertainty for me, and uncertainty is not the feature of a good WC trip. Sure, you may say, you had one strange experience, but you are not qualified to generalize about an entire city. And that may be partially true. But then, we arrived at the hostel....

Where I was greeted by THIS.

Talk about uncertainty?! (And you should know that this is a slightly less complicated version of the contraption that initially greeted me. Yes, it had a "fountain".) This thing has more levers, knobs, and gadgets than a time machine! All of the apparatus also significantly reduces the seat space. And I know I am supposed to feel better about sitting on plastic, but given that I couldn't figure out exactly how the lever was supposed to work to change the plastic (and to get the seat down) it really just made me dread going to the restroom. Additionaly, the flusher was significantly difficult to find in the midst of all of the gizmos. I would say I am generally a pretty confident person, but I held it for significant portions of the trip just to try to reduce the number of trips I would have to make.

From the ridiculous to the sublime.

Yes, that is real sand and sea shells in a toilet seat cover. You should also know that the "out of toilet paper percentage" (another measure for my future travel book) was an unbelievable 60%. It is good to be back in the land where the toilets may not flush, but the apparatus is simple, the flusher is prominently displayed, and the toilet paper is abundant.

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