Monday, October 10, 2005

The amazing toilet

In the last three years, I've spent some small amount of time pondering the wonders of the Greek toilet. Yes, it seems like a rather inane subject to think about at all, but you see, in America, toilets never seem to work so well. American toilets are always getting clogged for various reasons: men, feminine products, paper towels, cat litter (oops), and you name it. You cannot flush anything but toilet paper down an American toilet, and watch out if you use too much. It may come back to haunt you. And by haunt I mean spending the next hour ruining all your towels and trying to keep the overflowing toilet from drowning the litter box. Ewww. I think in all my life I have never once been to a business that didn't have at least one toilet out of service due to an overflow problem. It was as common at home as it was in the working world. Toilets clog. Life goes on.

I'll admit when I first arrived at our new apartment in Athens, the first time I went to the bathroom I had no idea how to flush it. The sitting part of the toilet had no tank attached - the tank was above the toilet, connected by a pipe. For the life of me, I could not find a flushing mechanism. I knew, from my experiences in Europe, that the flusher could be anything and anywhere, but I'll be damned if I could find it. Of course, I'd rather save face and figure it out on my own, possibly spending hours in the bathroom, than leave the bathroom admitting I couldn't figure out how to flush. Well, I did finally figure it out, and I felt like an idiot, because it was really obvious. There was a button hanging from the tank, that actually looked more like a screw than something you push to flush the toilet, but hey, whatever works. Since then, most "modernized" bathrooms I have encountered (including our current one) have normal looking toilets, except the flusher is usually a button on the top of the tank, not a handle on the side.

But what really got me about that first toilet was the force involved in the flush. At first I was afraid it was going to suck the whole bathroom with it. I quickly learned that this was a toilet that would never clog. Sure, you didn't want to put small objects in it, but for the most part, it could take whatever you chose to throw at it. I was amazed. No need for plungers, snakes, or other assorted plumbing objects. This was a serious toilet.

I soon learned that in Greece, unless you were using a septic system (blech) all toilets were as wonderful and efficient as that first one. And this lead me to wonder - what is so different about the Greek toilet? Is it the plumbing (all these buildings are old buildings, you are telling me ancient plumbing was this good?), the toilet, what? And why isn't the American system as efficient? Why do Americans have to spend hours of their lives battling with an overflowing toilet?

I suppose if I took the time to ask someone who knows anything about plumbing I might have my answer. For now I'll just bask in the freedom of a well-functioning toilet.

No comments: