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Toilets around the world

Ranger Rich


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On cold mornings, the arrogant rulers of the ancient Turkish city of Ephesus forced slaves to sit on the frigid stone toilet seats in the communal restroom, the servants' warm buttocks taking the chill from the marble seats before the heartless rulers pulled up their tunics and sat down.

I point out this odd but true bit of history because I was recently in Ephesus and actually saw these 3,000-year-old stone toilet seats. And also because it explains why Steve Cox, the chief of staff for Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, rushes down to the City Hall men's room each morning — just before Mayor Bach finishes his large coffee and fourth bran muffin.

But enough about that. Only an idiot would spend two weeks in Europe amid the yachts in the harbor of Monte Carlo, the savory cafés of Sorrento, the Greek windmills of Mykonos and 3,000 years of history, then write an entire column about the toilets in Turkey.

So let's move on and talk about the toilets in Italy.

A real crowd favorite was the restroom beneath the Piazzale Michelangelo above Florence, where a giant replica of the statue of David towers over tourists and vendors. David, as you know, was naked a lot and thus had no socially acceptable place to tuck away the 60 cents Euro (4.2 American gallons or 7/10ths of an acre) required to use the bathroom, which, according to art historians, he really needed to use. This would account for that funny look on his face.

Anyway, when you had to go, you first had to pay a nice Italian man who owned and managed the Piazzale toilets. This is considered a proud and important job in Italy, much like being a member of our Congress. Upon payment, the restroom baron allowed you into the tiny facility. There was nothing unusual about any of this, except he was holding a garden hose. Oh, and there wasn't an actual toilet. Just a hole in the floor.

The hole was surrounded by lovely ceramic tiles. The Italians tile everything. To use the facility you had to, uh, so as not to offend anyone let's refer to peeing as "No. 1" and let's call the other thing "Congressman Doug Lamborn."

So going No. 1 wasn't a huge problem, once you spread your feet very far apart like a giraffe at a watering hole to counter the splashage, which is a word I just made up. As for going Lamborn, well, you had to crouch down real low and maintain your balance while keeping a close eye on your trousers so you didn't drop a bomb on the wrong city, if you know what I mean.

When you were finished you had to rise from the crouch without touching anything because they didn't even have a handrail. Personally, I just held it for 14 hours until we were back on the ship.

There were restrooms in Italy and Turkey and in Greece, too, which had actual urinals and toilets inside privacy stalls. But even that was strange. There we were, men from all over the world standing shoulder to shoulder, settling in for a nice, modern pee, others in the stalls taking a big Doug Lamborn, and suddenly women would stroll right by you.

These women — I saw dozens of them during the two weeks — refused to wait in the traditional 34-hour line at the women's restrooms and instead barged through a sea of weenies in the men's room, talking and shouting at each other in languages I did not understand. Although as they went by me the giggling and pointing seemed eerily familiar.

I'd also point out that in the restrooms in Florence, where men took careful aim at the hole in the floor beneath the Piazzale (Italian, meaning literally, "I hope those aren't your best shoes"), the women's side had actual toilets. This is because no women are going to squat down over a hole in the floor, even if it's tiled, unless they are in strange and foreign places such as Texas or Manitou Springs.

A waiter at a sidewalk café in Rome laughed when I asked him about all of this. He said the lack of actual toilets in some public and government buildings was a cost-saving measure. He said you get used to the hole in the floor.

I hope our village never adopts that idea. It would be tough on all of us. Especially on Steve Cox, every time he had to extend a hand to hoist old Mayor Bach out of the squatting position.


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