Friday, January 05, 2007

Pulp friction

I don't like wiping... my bum... after going to the toilet. I wasn't brought up to be a wiper. Like most of us, I was trained in the old-fashioned Pinoy way: Get a tabo of water, use your bare hands to wash your arse out with soap, then wash your hands thoroughly. The idea of taking a wad of paper and wiping your bum up after never occurred to me growing up. It was totally beyond my plane of reality.

Until first grade. This was when I encountered the idea of toilet paper. A classmate of mine had to go to the bathroom and asked our teacher if he could go. He whispered something to our teacher. The teacher nodded and asked him if he had some paper. He said he did and he brought some paper with him. Regular pad paper. This puzzled me but I kept quiet. Paper?

Later, I asked my mother about it and she told me. The paper is used to wipe off the poop from your arse afterwards. Ahhh, I said, never even considering the significance of this profound statement.

My mother was telling me about the real world; the world out there. I never gave it another thought. Like I said, this was beyond my plane of reality.

Until a few months later when reality ran right smack into me. This time I had to go to the toilet to do the number one. I felt the need as early as one o'clock but fought it for an hour. I knew our school toilet didn't have tabo. I knew that anybody could walk in the toilet and see (and smell) that there was somebody in there and, sooner or later, word would get out that it was me and I didn’t want to be called Poop Boy for the rest of the school year. I didn’t want to get caught in there with my pants down, pardon the pun.

So I fought my own body for what seemed like forever. I fought and fought until I couldn’t anymore. I had to go. I walked up to the teacher and told her. She nodded her head and asked me if I had paper. Paper! I said I did. Bringing the the pad paper with me, I headed to the toilet. I did my stuff. I was so thankful that nobody walked in. (Of course, some of my classmates knew what I was up to when they saw me take some paper out so I didn’t totally escape being called Poop Boy.)

Then came the moment of truth. The moment I dreaded. I took a sheet of paper and proceeded to wipe, rather timidly at first. I can’t describe how I felt at that precise moment when paper met arse. It was like being transported to another dimension, like losing your grip with the here-and- now, like slipping into another plane of existence. I looked at the used piece of paper and I knew I entered into a different world. I also knew that one sheet of paper ain’t gettin it done, man. So I took out another. Then another. And another. I scrubbed so hard my arse ached.

I used up all my pad paper but I still didn’t feel clean. With a sense of defeat, I put my pants back on, washed my hands, and walked back to the classroom, feeling filthy. And I just knew my classmates thought I was filthy. (Later, in fourth grade, I discovered that the Assistant Principal's toilet had tabo and soap when I got sent to his office after some, shall we say, misunderstanding about the school’s rules and regulations on proper conduct in class. Since then, whenever I felt the need, I went to his office and asked if I could use his bathroom. Bless his soul, he was kind enough to let me.

My misgivings towards toilet paper continued. In Western culture, using paper is an unmistakable mark of a civilized man because it exhibits some kind of tool-use, something that differentiates higher animals from lower ones. The more developed the tool, the higher the animal on the evolutionary ladder. More primitive animals, so this theory goes, don’t clean their bums at all. Somewhat higher animals use leaves, exhibiting a propensity for manipulating the environment for its own use. And man, the pinnacle of evolution, uses bleached, scented, processed wood pulp, neatly arranged in rolls, to clean their bums,showing how far they’ve come from the time their ancestors scraped their arses on smooth stones near the riverbank. In this school of thought, washers like me are certainly on the lower rungs of the evolutionary totem pole because of the absence of tool-use in bum cleaning.

Hungry for acceptance, I adapted for a time the use of the bum roll, especially in the office I used to work in, where they have eschewed the use of the tabo. To give me the sense of cleanliness that I require, I proceeded to roll up a lot of paper, wet the whole thing in the sink, and used this to wipe my arse. Little did I know that the bum roll isn’t made of sturdy fiber. Marketing majors have decided, on their own I might add, that softer paper is more desirable than sturdy paper, and so gave us paper that is totally useless when wet, disintegrating into their component fibers when handled rather roughly. These individual fibers have a tendency to bunch up into wads and stick to the hairs of one's arse where they harden into fiber balls. One then has to check, everyday when taking a bath, if these fiber balls are present up one's arse-hairs. Fortunately, these are easy to remove with soap and water. But as you may imagine, this totally made me lose my faith in the bum roll.

I run into this Paper Culture when assigned overseas. London, England and New York City are generally accepted as the best cities mankind has ever produced. Not to me. They don’t have a concept of the tabo. Fortunately, during my trip to New York, I was picked up by relatives who still adhere to the toilet habits of the beloved Patria Adorada. I stayed in their home for a weekend and they took me to Atlantic City, where I was able to appropriate the plastic tumblers used to hold the slot machine tokens in the Trump Taj Mahal. These made for useful tabo substitutes and I brought them with me to my Midtown Manhattan apartment where I stayed, bum clean and fragrant, for the next three weeks. In Nanjing, China, I bought a tabo from a store near the office. It wasn’t really a tabo. It was a small palanggana. But it served the purpose.

Toilet heaven would have to be Bangkok, Thailand. Next to the toilet bowl in our apartment, and in the bank where I was assigned, is a hose with a nozzle. You take this hose after pooping, press a lever, and out comes a jet of water with which you clean your bum. You can adjust the strength of the water jet by turning the tap. The ubiquitous roll of paper is still present but only used to dry your arse after washing. Any civilization that would place the bum roll in a position subservient to soap and water is okay by me. I am ready to vote for Bangkok as the best city in the world. Our office toilet has a tabo. Good. Being the – quote –biggest trade finance system provider in the world – unquote - I'd expect our toilet to have at least one. After all, we shouldn’t just be IT professionals in every sense of the word. Our bums should also smell nice.

Note: This first appeared in the ersatz company newsletter. A couple of months later, the building administrator had those nozzle thingies connected in all the toilets. I never found out if the article had anything to do with it.


Anonymous said...

since we can't afford those Japanese high-tech sensor thingies, we must subsist on water, tabo, and toilet paper. said...

i was just gonna say: you haven't been to japan yet! that would be Toilet Nirvana!! even the mall's toilets had built in bidets where you could:

1. wash after number 1
2. wash after number 2 for women
3. air dry AND
4. muffle the 'sounds' with toilet flushing noise

the best part of course is the washing/spraying motion can be in 'waves' and you can control the water's temperature!!!!

Kat O+ said...

I never leave home without my tabo. When you're desperate, you can always take bottled water into the toilet. People might think it's weird but it beats walking around with a funny feeling all day...

Jego said...

Good tip, kat. I wonder if fizzy water is better than still water.

I read your tabo article. It's hilarious. Maybe somebody could design a collapsible, portable travel tabo. I'd buy one.