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Breaking it Down: Bathroom Humor*

Those of you who watched the video of DMC Ville may have noticed that our bathroom comes with a fancy Asian bidet. Basically, it’s an attachment bolted on in place of the toilet seat, which offers all the utility of a bidet without requiring A) a separate dedicated unit (as is often the case in Europe [or was the last time I was there]) or B) a SUPER expensive all-in-one toilet/bidet, which can run you upwards of $5500.

In theory, it’s all quite luxurious. Without getting too graphic, it could be said that one might grow to appreciate a persistent state of freshness concerning one’s rear nethers. But on the subject of bathroom luxury, ours is a house divided: HCB is guarded but optimistic; I face the thing with dread. Although I’m a dedicated practitioner of personal hygiene, I just don’t know about this thing.

Let me, with painstaking delicacy, walk you through the situation. Not wishing to belabor the point, I’ll begin my breakdown at the point after all necessary business has been dispensed with and the normal… maintenance… has been taken care of. Are we all on the same page here? Yes? Ok. So, being well prepared, one turns one’s attention to the control panel waiting innocently to the right of the seat:

As you can see, on it is an array of pictograms and English words, both abbreviated and not. The purposes of some are clearly apparent; the purposes of others are a mystery even after experimentation. The difference between the “WASH” and “BIDET” functions, for example. Something different is going on, but what exactly… I have no idea. Also, the “MAS,” “DEO” and “ANION” functions are too frightening to risk on such delicate anatomy. Massage? Deodorant? Ions? I’m at a loss.

Don’t worry though. Even without the instruction manual, one can take this baby for a spin around the block, but as with any powerful machine, it’s important to start out slow. However, the problem one faces, especially when one has just moved into one’s new apartment, is that the temperature and intensity of the water is set by the bidet’s most recent operator. This means that if the previous occupants had used the bidet so often and so vigorously that they couldn’t feel clean with anything short of scalding hot water discharged from a fire hose, then one will be in for an unambiguous intimate cleaning. However, after reducing the heat and intensity, it is possible that one might be seduced by the bidet’s charms. When used improperly, it is not entirely unlike sitting on or VERY near a jacuzzi jet. When set correctly, the experience is not entirely unpleasant, although the splashing that can occur undermines my confidence in its hygienic virtues.

With all that attended to, there one sits, clean but sopping. Although more antique bidet technology might have necessitated some amount of toweling off, here in Asia, we sit astride the culmination of human advancement: the toilet-mounted hairdryer. I just can’t go into detail on this one (HCB’s mother reads AD), but suffice it to say, any potential concern that has shot through your mind while reading this is a real issue that must either be mitigated or tolerated. Yes. Everything you’re thinking right now. All of it.

Even with all that, every once in a while, I break down and give the bidet another try. It’s too hard to resist that siren’s song. I think to myself, Maybe just for a second. Just a spritz. But as with so many bad ideas, once started, it’s “in for a penny, in for a pound.” Oh and did I mention? Every time you push a button – switching from WASH to BIDET to DRY – the toilet beeps, notifying you and any house guests you may have that you’ve started a new phase of the cleaning process. So if anybody visits us, be forewarned: if you try the bidet, everyone in the apartment – and probably everyone on our floor – will know what you’re doing and when. If you’re comfortable with that then we are, but consent can’t be given without prior knowledge.

*Maybe “humor” sets the bar a little high, but let’s go with it.

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Shannon Panuska #

    Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing the hilarity.

    February 21, 2012
  2. Katie #

    Oh man. HCB has heard all about this, but I never learned how to use the multifunction toilet in Japan. I’d blindly stab at buttons until the thing released me in what I thought might be a state both clean and flushed, and then my homestay dad would go into the bathroom with a newspaper tucked under his arm, whistling nonchalantly, and I would hide in my room until a few minutes later when I would hear him shrieking like a little girl. I think I mastered the settings “Scalding Geyser” and “Freezing Seat avec Randomized Carwash Simulator.” I see that yours was designed by a similarly sadistic engineer, who neglected to label A SIMPLE FLUSH BUTTON. If there were such a button, it would be the only one I would be willing to touch for love or money.

    Does Korea believe in Western-style toilets in public places, or do you guys have those godawful troughs? The discrepancy between too-high-tech at home and too-primitive out of the house totally killed me. I was the Goldilocks of pooping.

    February 21, 2012
    • Oh, we’re both ROFLing now.

      The first time I used our bidet, the setting was so high that water shot out from the back of the toilet, through my legs, past my knees, and onto the floor in front of me. It was, well, awkward. And the drying feature? Let us not revisit that. Suffice it to say, the highest setting is HOT.

      So far, public toilets have all been trough-less, thankfully, but I’ve heard some terrifying reports of what awaits me once I leave the city, which, now that I think about it, I might not do.

      February 21, 2012
  3. Lisa Millimet #

    I don’t usually laugh this early in the morning. Thank you for the chance! xoxox

    February 21, 2012
  4. ElJump #

    Maybe it’s because I hear your voices as I read your words but OH MY GOD–I am laughing so hard I’m crying. I’m picturing your adventures in Bidetland as some Buster Keaton-qua-French & Saunders sketch.

    February 22, 2012
    • That is just about the highest praise imaginable! There has to be an episode of AbFab that puts Patsy on a bidet…

      February 22, 2012
  5. JC #

    My mom went to Korea one time many, many years ago, and when I told her some people i knew were moving there all she had to say was “Tell them to bring their own toilet paper. The toilet paper in Korea is like bark.” “Mom,” I said, “they are MOVING to Korea. I don’t think toilet paper is going to be high on their packing list.” I’m considering emailing her this post so she knows that you don’t even have to deal with scratchy toilet paper.

    February 22, 2012
    • Had HCB been given a chance for rebuttal, his main reason for supporting the bidet would be the toilet paper here. He has wondered whether perhaps recycled glass is one of the ingredients.

      We may not need to deal with scratchy toilet paper at HOME, but as soon as we step outside that door…

      February 22, 2012
      • Oh, the horror! I’d been warned about TP in public restrooms, but until I had occasion to use some, I had NO IDEA. It’s not like cheap US TP. Given the nature of the subject matter, I won’t say more.

        February 22, 2012
  6. JJTTFF #

    You know, my tuchus and I have had pretty good experiences with them bidets (although mystery buttons are avoided and feared) Also we’ve never minded the trough-styles in Japan, I think because when I lived with Elaine she had this article pasted right next to the toilet about how sitting on western toilets makes your colon catch on fire and turn into a CANCER MACHINE because we’ve evolved to squat. I’ve never looked into how valid that is but it certainly made me more willing to squat.

    February 22, 2012
  7. I read this post early this morning, before I was out of bed even (!) and I’ve kind of been freaking out about it ever since.

    I mean, there are too many choices in this hygienic scenario. And more choices does not lead to greater satisfaction. I would be tormented by the thought that maybe I wasn’t optimizing my toilet/bidet experience!

    You guys are so, so brave.

    And the beeping! The beeping is a Whole ‘Nother Thing. I just can’t even.

    Thank you for this post.

    February 22, 2012
    • It’s the weirdest species of interpellation. I’ll be off doing something in the apartment (reading / typing / attempting to accomplish some banal-in-America task that’s rendered amazingly complex when you don’t know Korean, like placing a phone call or microwaving dumplings) when I’ll hear the tell-tale beeps. The bidet’s beeps are different from all the other beeps in the house (the washing machine beeps, as does the dishwasher, and, most intriguingly, the front door), and they’re vociferous and confident. All of sudden, no matter what I’m doing, I’ll be made chirpingly aware of the human body and all its functions. Weirder that it’s specifically someone else’s body.

      February 22, 2012
  8. Wheaton #

    So so we’re all clear, “Bidet” is for women. Because they have something men don’t. Wash is for what we all have in common.

    February 23, 2012
    • GIANT “ah-ha moment” over here.

      February 23, 2012
    • That explains a lot.

      What further mysteries will you unfold when you come to visit?!

      February 23, 2012
  9. Linda Elkins #

    Absolutely hysterical!!! I’m crying from belly laughter…There are no words, just keep it coming……….Secret Santa

    February 24, 2012

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