Why don’t people flush the toilet?
I need to say what has long been left unsaid: why don’t people flush the loo after they do their little ouvre? How can they come out of the ‘restroom’ and close the door behind them without giving a thought to the nice little contribution still floating in the toilet bowl, unflushed?
I know it’s not the perfect pre-Sunday lunch topic, but reader, are you one of these people? Are you an unflusher? Pray tell, what crosses your mind when you don’t flush the toilet? Would you be in a rush? Would you just simply forget? Or do you go in with the intention of not flushing your extra waste?
After decades of using public toilets – and this includes ones in hotels and restaurants and not just those ones in the town square where a kind lady hands you two matchbox-sized bits of toilet paper – I have come to the conclusion that Maltese people are rather averse to pressing the chrome handle and letting the water flow in the bowl.
Off the cuff, I would say that roughly, 70 per cent of public toilets go unflushed.
At one workplace once we even had posters on the toilet door to remind us that no one wants to go in the toilet cubicle to be greeted by a ‘Christmas gift’. The poster came with a clipart of a slim, tanned, whoopsie dressed as Santa Claus, to gently nudge the distinguished poopers to remember their duties.
I discussed the issue with the girlfriends last week. We’ve all been in desperate situations but preferred to faint with bowel pain than brave a doo-doo splattered toilet.
“I think some people don’t flush to avoid touching the handle because people would have touched it before with dirty hands. I think people are afraid of germs,” said the fairest of us all.
True. They may be recalling history lessons and how in 1854, in the middle of a cholera epidemic in London, a clever doctor mapped where victims died and found that the deaths seemed concentrated around a street pump. When he had the handle removed from the pump, the cholera epidemic stopped immediately.
But of course, in this century, you can use extra toilet paper to touch the handle, or use your foot, in one abrupt kung fu movement, to push down the handle (my specialty).
You can use extra toilet paper to touch the handle, or your foot
Another girlfriend said that at her austere convent school, they were taught to refrain from flushing the toilet if they had had ‘only a pee’ in order to save water. “It’s hard to shake off convent school upbringing,” she said with a trademark convent-education sigh.
Another one had the ‘silent tinkle’ theory. Many people, she argued, go to the toilet and pretend they are not there so the person in the next cubicle is not in any way witness to their bowel movements. They even manage to pee silently (by staying at edge of the seat so wizz falls on toilet bowl). “So, of course, then you don’t flush because that would mean admitting you actually left a souvenir.”
This can be easily avoided by flushing the minute you get in the cubicle, so the noise drowns all kinds of ploppy echoes. The drawback is that you have to allocate time for the water tank to fill up and you can flush again when the task is done. In some toilets this can take as long as a boring board meeting.
It was anonymously agreed that those automatic toilets that flush before you go anywhere near them (vide Gozo Channel terminal at Ċirkewwa) are highly commendable. These toilets flush some three times while you’re still sitting down and then one time more as you exit the toilet. The flipside is that sometimes the automatic flush is too keen and it wets your patata in the process.
A sociologist friend was quite defensive of the non-flushers, arguing that the act is not in the collective memory of humankind, and that in reality we are meant to relieve ourselves behind bushes. “For millennia we have been twitching our necks to check no one’s watching, then we squat, we dump, and we run. Now we’re meant to stay and wipe and preen – that goes against our nature.”
He took it against the Roman engineer who invented the toilet, saying it’s too high up and as a result we suffer from backache. “Show me a person who sits on the toilet with a straight back?” he barked. In the name of research, I tried it. And it’s not, err, very productive.
The solution therefore is a sensor-sensitive vacuum toilet. Like the ones on the plane. Everyone flushes on the plane. We all love that loud shroo-oom sound and we’re fascinated by the aftermath. Is it jettisoned into the sky? Does it turn into icicles and fall on innocent passersby? Give us mystery and drama and we collaborate.
In the meantime, you unflushers, be warned: I’m watching you.