Friday, March 30, 2007

The Squat Toilet: A User's Guide

It seems that no blog from China (or from anywhere else in Asia!) is complete without a discussion of the squat potty. They range from humorous accounts of the difficulties of using such a contraption (see here and here) to heartfelt descriptions of the degradation and filth involved (see here) to high-minded assertions of the superiority of squat potties (see here) to a comparative account of the “deadliest potties” (see here) (I agree, BTW, with ranking port-a-potties as number one!).

I will strive for a practical guide, in aid of all future visitors to China.

1. BYOP: A careful examination of the photo above will show something missing from the usual toilet stall in China (other than a seat!), and that is toilet paper, so bring your own.

2. The correct way, I am told, to stand over the toilet is facing the door. But with the door closed, who cares? Do whatever works best for you! (see pipe-holding, # 8 below).

3. Be careful, because the floor is often slippery. No, it isn’t what you think it is. Most porcelain toilets do flush, and they do so with considerable force. Oftentimes the water sprays OUTSIDE the toilet as well as in.

4. Where you are to place your feet is fairly obvious – sometimes they are foot-shaped, and most of the time they have ridges. But sometimes there are no footholds -- use your good judgment!

5. Here’s the counterintuitive part – put your feet as close to the bowl as you can. I know, you are worrying about peeing on your shoes. But I can’t stress enough that keeping your feet and knees CLOSE TOGETHER ensures accuracy of aim. (Your mileage may vary, but it has worked for all three of us with different anatomies and different potty "styles" and trajectories. We got perpetually soaked until we figured out the knees-together trick.)

6. Pull down what needs to be pulled down. Also, because the floor is often wet, I find it advisable to pull up pants legs if you are wearing long trousers. You can hold your waistband and your pants legs together in your hands. And if you have anything important in your pocket (say your room key that you don’t want to have to fish out of the toilet), you might want to include that in the squeeze. (FYI, it is not advisable to put your room key down your bra rather than in your pockets, it will definitely fall out as you assume the position – but probably in the trashcan rather than in the toilet, but that’s not much of an improvement, I guarantee).

7. Squat. Go as low as you can comfortably go. But if you KEEP YOUR KNEES TOGETHER you don’t have to go all that low and can still ensure proper aim. Imagine that you are sitting on a comfortable Western toilet, but with your chest to your knees. You are now in the correct position.

8. You might find it helpful (and kids probably MUST do this) to face the wall instead of the door and hold on to the pipe that brings the flushing water. Yes, I know it is germy. But falling into the toilet would be even germier – and remember the slippery floor. And see # 15 below.

9. If you are worried about getting your clothes wet, pass one arm between your legs from the front and behind your pants. Push your pants forward as far as you can. But I’m using my hands to hold up my pants legs, I hear you cry. But by this time, you are in a crouch, which will hold your pants legs up! If you are REALLY worried, you can always take off your pants and panties. But don’t expect a hook to hang them up with. You’ll either have to hold them or throw them over the stall door.

10. Do your business.

11. Flush. But be ready to move your feet as the water might splash (see # 3 above). The flush button is usually just that -- a round button to push in rather than a lever to push down.

12. Wipe (You BYOP, right? See # 1 above).

13. DO NOT put TP down the toilet, it will not flush. Put it in the trashcan inside the stall.

14. Wash your hands. Do not expect paper towels to dry them (BYOP, right?).

15. Use hand sanitizer, and then forget about anything you might have touched while in the stall!

16. A few “holds” that help kids: First, you can have them squat over the potty, knees together, holding onto the water pipe. Second, you can have them squat over the potty, knees together, and hold them by one or both arms, taking their full weight. This will ensure that they get down very low. Second, for smaller children, you can hold your child off the ground, back to your front, one leg in each hand. Hold them as low over the potty as you can.

17. If I can do it – old, obese, with bad knees and a completely inflexible body – you can do it.

18. Write your own blog post as a veteran of the Chinese squat potty!


Dee Thompson said...

Love this post! I am in Kazakhstan adopting my son and this potty is very similar to the one I use at his orphanage. The squatties abound in Russia, too, where I adopted my daughter two years ago. I am also old and fat, but when you gotta go, you gotta go!

Your mom and my mom are buddies from the Yahoo Grannies group.

Take care,

mimifrancoise said...

This is the longest and the most thorough description of a squatty and how to do it! I've also seen some of these in old French villages. The ones in Africa were not as nice either! Zoe and Maya are getting quite an education. They seemed happy when we talked to them last night. Loved Zoe's dance. Love that webcam.

Anonymous said...

May knees hurt just reading your
vivid description of using the
squatty potty. We were in China
in 2005 to adopt and I never had
to try to use one. Such an experience.......ohhhhhh

Laura Holder said...

Hi Professor, i was in one of your adoption law classes last year and saw that you were able to get your trip to China - congrats! This entry was hilarious as were the other blogs you sent us to. Just wanted to let you know that the tips are taken to heart and lifted my day.

Anca Adams said...

My squatty advice - keep your chin up! Being so low to the hole sometimes causes the pee to richochet off the porcelain and splash you in the face.

Love the blog! --anca

Sue said...

Too funny! Thanks for the laugh and the potty tips! Maybe knowing that Zoe and Maya can use the squatty will convince Maggie she can do it too. I have, but she refused, on our last trip to China. BTW, the Pizza Hut at the department store in Nanning had a lovely, clean bathroom with squat potties!

(finally got a Google account)

Mike Patricia & Evy said...
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