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Friday, September 08, 2006

You Say You Want A RevoLOOtion

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Walski's minor apology: This post should really have come out a couple of weeks ago, when the press statement first came out. You might say that myAsylum had a minor case of blog constipation... and for that, Walski offers his apologies.

This is NOT Najib, by the way. Image hosting by PhotobucketA couple of weeks ago, our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak made a press statement that Malaysia needs a toilet revolution. Or revoLOOtion, as Walski likes to call it.

But this revoLOOtion is not something that is going to be an easy task. In fact, it's going to be a daunting one. So daunting, that there may even be a need to exhume one radical Che Guevara to help achieve.

Now, two weeks later, after Najib's statement has been thoroughly flushed around the international media community, we still have wet and smelly public toilets, and our toilet-going public has yet to be revoLOOtionized.

Although Walski did, at some point, propose that our dirty toilets could be turned into tourist attractions, all kidding aside, the DPM's statement couldn't be more timely.

You never know when nature's gonna call...

So, why is this revoLOOtion going to be something difficult to achieve? Could it be that it involves a change in mindset and habits? Could it be that Malaysians simply cannot do the Number Two unless they are in a damp and smelly environment? Or are there other reasons?

After reading the press statement, Walski quickly despatched the intrepid Cybernetic Remote Autonomous Pararoaches (CRAP) squad to the furthest regions of our public toilet institution, to investigate.

The following is a summary of the utterly shocking (and sometimes disgusting) CRAP findings.

The RevoLOOtion Will Not Be Televised
For some unfathomable reason, it's actually very difficult to find a dry public toilet anywhere. And being dry is probably step one on the journey towards having clean public facilities. Granted, for some Malaysian's the toilet experience is not complete unless one washes their nether regions with water, after that satisfying dump.

With lots and lots of water.

And for some other reason, also a mystery, in most people's minds, the use of toilet paper for the task of cleaning one's behind is just unthinkable.

Well, guess what? It is possilble to use a combination of less water, and toilet paper, to achieve the stature of having a clean butt. It's called the wipe-wash-wipe method - first you wipe, then you wash, then you wipe (repeat as the degree of messiness necessitates).

There is a reason why God inspired someone to invent toilet paper. And the reason is probably to keep the toilet dry, and clean. Plus, you avoid the discomfort from using rocks or twigs (which are also infinitely more difficult to flush down the loo).

And with the placement of the hand-held bidet (or in lay-person's language, that spray-head on the rubber hose thingy) in most public toilets these days, it's actually possible to water-wash yourself and not wet deluge the toilet. All it takes is a will, and a focused spray on your nether regions. But for some, Walski supposes that the only satisfactory wash is one that involves a bucket, lots of water, and a thoroughly wet flooded floor as a result.

And hopefully flooded with just water.
(more toilet LOOnacy in the full post)

LOOsen up a bit won't ya?
And speaking of wet toilets, nothing spoils a good bowel movement more than a wet toilet seat. Okay, a wet toilet seat with shoe prints is definitely worse, but you get the picture. Walski would, at this point, like to introduce you to a simple, yet universal, concept of public toilet etiquette - it's called courtesy.

For some reason, courtesy seems to be missing from the vocabulary of the typical Malaysian, regardless of race, religion or color of feces. And not just when it comes to cleaning up after yourself in a public loo, either.

Why that is so, is anybody's guess. Could it be that the proliferation of cheap domestic help (i.e. foreign maids) has made cleaning up after ourselves such an indignant task? Or do we love ourselves and our waste so much that we are compelled to share it with others?

OR could it just be that Malaysians simply don't give a sh*t?

If that were the case, aren't we just pathetic? Or apethetic, more like it. So apethetic that it takes the nation's Number Two (pun intended) to proclaim that we have a toilet problem in our country.

Some people may just enjoy the feel of a wet toilet seat on your bottom, but not Walski. Not one single bit. The female half of our population have devised a creative workaround, though, which Walski calls the Half-Levitation Non-Contact Squat, but this simply doesn't work with males (not without making a mess, that is).

For the benefit of all Malaysians, though, it would probably be easier (and less strenous) if everyone did their bit to clean up after their business - is that too much to ask?

Intelligent Design vs. EvoLOOtion
Image hosting by PhotobucketLet's face it, people. Most Malaysians these days do not go around town or to work, or wherever, in their sarongs anymore. At least, not the males. So, why, oh why, do we still build public washrooms with squat toilets?

Granted, as Walski's been told, like childbirth, the squat position provides for fast and thorough bowel evacuation. And probably more satisfying for some, too. Bowel movement, that is, not childbirth, in a squat position.

But, c'mon.... squat toilets are simply not practical for public facilities. Ask anyone (males, in particuar) that has had to try getting out of their trousers, without getting them wet, in a squat toilet stall. It literally takes the dexterity of a Chinese contortionist acrobat to de-pants-ify yourself in such enclosed spaces, with wet floors (and hopefully just from water).

Walski calls this the Squat-Stall Ballet Manouever (with a 3.5 degree of difficulty).

Image hosting by PhotobucketWhat makes this manouever even more difficult is in cases where the floor is obviously wet and dirty (from what, Walski doesn't even want think about), which in the case of squat public toilets is all the time.

And doing the Squat-Stall Ballet Manouever in cases of dire emergency will probably lead to accidents - and not just the falling-down kind, either. Unless, of course, you happen to be a Chinese contortionist acrobat. Which Walski is certain 99.9% of us aren't.

So how about that, public toilet designers? Could we not have anymore squat public toilets in th future? And for the existing squat toilets, maybe some retrofittng works should be considered. We don't get that many contortionist tourists to warrant even keeping 'em around.

And all it takes is putting a little intelligence (and common sense) into the design. Now, granted the squat bowls are probably cheaper, but squat toilet stalls are almost impossible to keep dry, and therefore, clean.

A sit-down toilet bowl - a few hundred ringgit extra. Happy tourist going home with pleasant Malaysian pubic toilet memories - priceless. And you don't even need MasterCard in that equation.

LOOrid Toilet Maintenance Stories
And this, perhaps is a problem all unto itself. Regardless of whether we're talking about public toilets or any other facility for public use. Maintenance. To be more precise, the lack of it.

How many times have we had to go into a public toilet, in a semi-emergency, and not found any toilet paper? In Walski's case, countless. Makes one wonder why the f*ck we have to even pay a single sen, much less 30, for the privelege to use these badly maintained loos.

Image taken from, hosting by PhotobucketAnd are profits such a massive consideration that the maintenance companies don't bother to use disinfectant that smells pleasant? More often than not, the disinfectants used themselves smell awful. Walski sometimes can't tell if its urine, or urine-smelling disinfectants, that he smells in these public facilities. You don't remember Dettol smelling like piss now, do you?

Perhaps this particular facet of the intended revoLOOtion is what needs to be addressed first. Any maintenance company that claims adequate toilet paper is eating into their profit margins should be flushed out of the system...

Dirty Toilets Are For LOOsers
And so, with the revoLOOtion already called for, what changes can we expect to see?

It's going to take a lot of change from all parties - the public as well as the various levels of government - to make clean public toilets a norm in Malaysia (and not the exception). And does it really matter? Damn straight! Especially when you have public (and not-so-public) loos in lesser developed places like Thailand or Vietnam being cleaner, in general, than ours generally are. What pleasantly surprised Walski when he visited Saigon (Ho Chih Minh City) some years back was how clean most of the toilets in restaurants were, as well as the public watering holes toilets.

So, you see, it's not really an Asian thing, dirty toilets. It's something Malaysians have to first come to grips with - that our general level of hygiene consciousness is just not up to scratch. That, and the conscious effort to be courteous to one another.

Get these two things out of the way, and Walski guarantees that clean public toilets won't be very far behind. We don't want to be known as a nation of dirty LOOsers, now, do we?