July 8, 2010

Behind Door Number 2

Ruma's toilet is a room you enter through a metal door that you must pick up and replace if you want privacy. In the center of the bathroom is the well, from which the family hoists all of their bathing, flushing, laundry, drinking, and washing water. Conveniently, a trough-like drain runs from other people's homes, along the back wall of the bathroom, and into the street, where all of the waste water collects along with floating scraps of trash to some location I never want to find.

I have been a guest at Ruma's home before, having gotten used to this unusual bathroom. All you have to do is squat at this trough to urinate. You complete the standard self-washing using the well water and flush simply by rinsing off the pee that you mis-aimed down the drain.

But what about number 2? I had been avoiding this problem, for it seemed awkward for my shit to enter into the liquid stream in the street, no matter how disgusting it already was out there. However, it wasn't quite the appropriate question to ask, I mean, how rude to query, you use the bathroom in here? I decided to suck it up, it was inevitable that the time would come for me to test my ability to poop in a trough.

I held my breath (not that it would keep it from smelling like urine everywhere) and did the deed. It was difficult, mind you, for the trough was merely inches away from the wall, making it nearly impossible to properly squat over the center. The fact that the floor was slippery did not assist in my acrobatics to accomplish my bowel movement. Nevertheless, I stood up, washed and attempted to flush. But as my poop floated in the stream towards the hole entering the street, and was trapped by a small cage that prevented solid matter from exiting, I knew I had made a horrible mistake.

I just stood glaring at the dilemma, shoveling buckets of water hoping to force the problem out. It was futile. I would have to ask...for help. I went into the room, clearly anxious, but not wanting to reveal this misdemeanor to the entire family. I tried explaining using the most polite words I could, but with her introductory level of English, the euphemisms were not working. I brought Ruma into the bathroom to show her what I had done. Her face was stricken with horror, as she awkwardly had no response. I apologized profusely while holding back my laughter at the absurdity of the situation. Ruma did not laugh. To my further embarrassment, she immediately told her husband and son, "She didn't know about the other toilet!" Her son said nothing and left the room.

She brought me to the kitchen and opened up a door that was obscured by hanging rags and utensils, and which revealed a delightful latrine--a squat Indian toilet that emptied into the ground. I found out at that critical moment that this was the correct toilet for number 2.

She insisted that I tell her if I needed to use this one I could always ask to use it. Obviously I would have had I known it existed and I would do so in the future. But it did not fix the fact that there was still poop stuck in the drain.

What to do? If it had been diarrhea perhaps the story would have been different. But no luck today. No amount of water would wash it away. The shit would have to be rescued. I assured Ruma that I would clean it up. To rectify my doings, I took a plastic bag and turned it inside out around my hand. I crouched around the back of the well to the drain, slipped on the slimy floor but thankfully did not fall, and made access. I scooped it all up, the warm lumps, and turned the bag around to close them in. Holding the bag as far away as possible I ran out of the house and placed the poop in the neighborhood trash pile. I only hope the ragpicker does not discover the evidence.

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