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LAST WORDS: Toilet Horror. A Slight Suggestion
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BT 201806 Last words Portable toilets are seen in front of skyscrapers at the Qianhai special economic zone in Shenzhen

Portable toilets are seen in front of skyscrapers at the Qianhai special economic zone in Shenzhen


      地域歧视普遍存在于各个地区和各个国家之间,有些刻板印象自然不是完全正确的,但它们已经牢牢地打在了某个地区的烙印上,例如:法国的警察总是非常积极;在日本对话或和人交谈时,必须时刻谨防冒犯他人;而在芬兰,与人之间的距离越远越好,如果靠的太近,会被视为不礼貌;俄罗斯,似乎每个人都可以喝掉很多伏特加;而英国的食物总是被人所吐槽;德国则较少产出流行文化……那么对中国的地域歧视有什么呢?


      如今说到中国,人们往往会想到经济的快速发展,人口庞大,城市拥堵。但是,如果提到厕所,这往往是外国游客所苦恼的问题。为什么他们会“害怕”中国的厕所?曾经有一个法国网络博主在法国街头进行了一项试验,请法国人试一试“亚洲蹲”这种姿势,结果显示,只有一个练过武术的路人才能做到自如的蹲下。普遍存在于国内各地的蹲厕就这样成为了外国人如厕时无法逾越的障碍。


      此外,这类厕所也容易出现地板被弄脏的情况,影响下一位厕所的使用者。在厕所内抽烟也非常地令人不愉快,然而办公室附近的卫生间或夜总会的卫生间都存在这样的问题。在偏远地区,尤其旅游景点,往往缺乏厕所,公共厕所准备不足。有一些地方的旱厕则非常的开放,几乎无法很好地保护隐私,让人感到非常不适。


      中国目前依然是一个发展中国家,有一些方面无法保证全国各地同步跟上,确实可以理解;但是,在设施不足或不便的情况下,我们依然需要从自己做起,尽量不要给别人带来麻烦。文明使用厕所,从你我做起。

BT 201806 Last words 02Every country has its flaws and weaknesses. It’s wrong to stereotype, of course, but there are definitely things which are common enough to be aggregated as national characteristics. French police are remarkably aggressive. Conversations in Japanese have to forestall the possibility of the other person taking offense, making them complex undertakings. Finns are renowned as being remote to the point of giving the impression of being unfriendly. Russia retains a remarkably high alcohol intake per person. Britain’s cuisine has improved since the days when lard lurked in most fridges, but chips and beans still provide the backbone of too many meals. (When I showed my wife, who is from Jiangsu, the TV show Jamie’s School Dinners, about the struggles of chef Jamie Oliver to convert a school canteen’s menu to healthy food, she was genuinely astounded. “Why do parents insist on giving their children bad food?” I had no good answer). Germany struggles with pop culture. (Why has such a great country so rarely produced memorable TV, film and music?) Australia really is full of things that could kill you.


What about China? Well, China is a country with a whole range of flaws and joys, some more consequential than others. Food is a delight, the safety of even the largest cities is admirable, and the friendliness makes life here easy to settle into. But there are problems – and significant problems at that. The roads throng with people apparently entirely unaware of elementary traffic safety. Health and safety can seem like the merest afterthought. People can be upfront on matters some consider delicate (If you mind being asked “Why are you so fat?”, “How much do you earn?”, or “Why are you not married yet?” China probably isn’t the country for you).


But one issue towers above them all. One matter of such fundamental basic human existence continues to distress and vex all visitors to China. One problem exists that still fills me with dread, anxiety and horror. Ladies and gentlemen of a delicate disposition, look away now for the issue is… Chinese toilets.


Why are they so awful? Why are they often so filthy, noxious, and vile? Quite frankly I’m stumped. I have no idea why people seem to have such difficulty in performing a basic bodily function. But there is such a recurring problem, in every Chinese town I have visited, and from the nicest office building to the cheapest of restaurants that it is truly endemic. And, like everyone else, I have some horror stories to tell (which I’ll try to keep from being too descriptive).


The Nightclub

BT 201806 Last words 04Besides being so thick with cigarette smoke that the fug stung my eyes and shredded my lungs, the nightclub seemed to attract men who never had learned how to aim when peeing. The tiled floor in the gents thus always became wet with stray urine. One busy night, the management had a brainwave and put cardboard down on the floor, to absorb the errant fluid. But this became wet, meaning that people lining up to pee stood further back, ensuring they missed and making the cardboard wetter, making them stand further back… It was a vicious circle of epic proportions.


Knowing the likely horror awaiting me, I had delayed visiting the toilet, but at some point, with several liters of beer trying to find a way out, it became absolutely critical. By this time the cardboard had all but dissolved into a sodden spongy mess. But you know the worst thing? As it had been 35C that hot June day, I was wearing flip-flops - open-toed flip-flops, which offered little more protection than a tissue in a hurricane.


I showered very thoroughly when I got home.


The Office

BT 201806 Last words 05At one point I worked in a very nice office building. Staff was given cards to operate the elevators, to ensure no interlopers could enter. The first floor comprised of irritatingly-expensive restaurants and a Starbucks, and there was a large fountain in the atrium, to give you a flavor of what it was like. The toilets on each floor offered new burnished-steel hand-driers, pleasant soap, Western-style toilets and urinals: they should not have been unpleasant to use. But they were always nasty because people were always retiring to them to smoke cigarettes. It wasn’t just the rank smell of stale smoke that annoyed: there was always ash on each cubical floor and butts in the toilet bowls. Even the newest and nicest scenario, was totally ruined.


The Hiking Trail

BT 201806 Last words 03Rural locations often lack toilets, naturally enough. But some popular hiking trails now have facilities, given the numbers that crowds there. One such place I went to was on a hill just outside of Nanjing. Halfway up the trail, a brick outhouse offered people relief, which was nice. The only problem was that it wasn’t fully plumped. The toilets simply led to a concrete pipe and then outside. As we walked on, you could see the back of the building, with turds lying unflushed beyond the concrete pipe. It wasn’t the most edifying of sights.


Why this goes on has always confused me. When I’ve asked, I’ve been told it’s because China has such a big population. Sure, it only takes a few people to spoil something. But surely the lesson to be drawn is that with a vast population, everyone needs to take greater care, lest we infringe on anyone, rather than cavalierly accepting that infringements will happen. When it comes to No. 1s and No. 2s, the environment needs to be #1 – not you.

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