August 21, 2008

Hygiene, etc.

Please bear with me: I'm going to write randomly about toilets. I don't know that this is a hot topic outside of my own hotel room, but it certainly is inside.

Ultimately, building up a lifetime of personal habits is hard to toss away, so to speak. In the bathrooms at the press center there are signs on each stall, in three languages, that say "Please throw your toilet paper in the dustbin." These are bathrooms that serve more than 5,000 people per day. If you're thinking ewww .... gross! Well, you're on the right track.

I'm finding that even though there is a sign, and I'm staring right at it, I still on occasion forget. When does it occur to a Westerner to throw soiled toilet paper in the trash, instead of the bowl? In fact, I would like to make the case that we don't think about it, which is the problem. For 40-odd years I have thrown my paper in the toilet; suddenly I have to re-train myself.

For the women, it's not as bad as the men's room, or so I'm told. For the first time in my life, there is greater Potty Parity, as it is sometimes known, here in the media center than anywhere I've ever been. This is not by design, it's simply because male journalists outnumber females.

The women have six or eight stalls in the bathroom closest to us. (I should remember, or at least get up and look, but .... no *six) The men have three stalls and three urinals (according to Paul). In my immediate surroundings, I would estimate there are roughly 35 journalists four of whom are women. So even if we take longer, we still have more space.

On the other hand, I notice our bathroom is always filled with volunteers, of whom most are women. So it's busy enough. This is one of two bathrooms, perhaps three, that serve 960 work stations.

I was trying to think where else I had visited where tossing the paper in the "dustbin" was the custom and can come up only with Greece. But that was on an island and it was 18 years ago -- there also was only one long-distance line off the island, if that tells you anything. So I don't know if it holds true anymore. I understand that it's probably a septic tank issue, but it's still gross.

The hotel has no sign; neither does the fancy Intercontinental attached to the media center. I presume, then, it's ok to use the bowl.

At least we have toilets, and not the Turkish-style that evidently is so popular here in China.

And if you've read this far, I'm guessing you're as sorry as I am that my sightseeing trip to the Forbidden City was rained out today.

Maybe tomorrow?

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