Monday, July 24, 2006

The urinal ritual

For as long as I've been in Jakarta, this one has puzzled me, but I think I've finally cracked the mystery. When I've been draining the python at places that have Western-style individual urinals in the men's dunnies, such as hotels, shopping malls, bars and offices, I've noticed (although "noticed" is probably not the best word to use, since one does their best not to look sideways when having a squirt) that Indonesians press the flush button numerous times during the 30 seconds or so that it takes to drain the python, and this button pushing is accompanied by lots of sloshing of water with the other hand.

Female readers may prefer to hit "backspace" or click another link at this point

My initial theories were that the guys were washing their hands with the flusher before shaking hands with the wife's best friend, or flushing repeatedly to mask the sound of their own torrent or to flush away the Yellow River as quickly as possible. Without stopping to stare, or ask the question directly, I've been perplexed by this for many months.

Last week, after mulling this mystery in my head once again, the answer finally dawned on me. I believe what is actually happening is that the right hand is pressing the flush button, and the left hand is using the flowing water for personal hygiene purposes. It's really quite simple, and I have no idea why it took me so long to put two and two together.


Blogger treespotter said...


8:43 PM  
Blogger Ujang said...

Good for you for figuring that out. (Hey, we're talking toilet here, and see who shows up first!)

While we're on the subject, here's a good reason why auto-flushing toilets should not have been invented, from Slate:

"To understand why hands-free toilet technology stinks, you must first understand three things that any well-designed loo should permit you to do.
1) Clean the pool. You must be able to flush the toilet easily before sitting down, in case any detritus remains from a previous, inconsiderate visitor.
2) Clean the pool, again. You must be able to flush more than once after you are done. Some of us are more prolific than others, and courteous patrons will want to ensure that Point 1 is unnecessary for whomever follows.
3) Issue a courtesy flush. If you plan to settle down with the sports page, you should flush immediately after dropping the kids at the pool. There's no need to let the kids linger any longer than absolutely necessary. This is for the benefit of other visitors."

10:18 AM  
Blogger Carmelita B said...

LOL, love your blog. Gonna link it and gonna come back often to read!

2:27 AM  
Blogger F-Word said...

Okay.. wait... did you just say the phyton?!

10:49 AM  
Blogger The Editor said...

Actually, I said python

5:18 AM  
Blogger w said...

you could have asked. well perhaps discretely. if you'll notice, the people that do the multiple flushing and the 'personal hygiene' will most likely be muslim. Most of them(us) have been trained to clean the python head after draining, so as not to leave spots on our undergarments. Its probably a good way to keep from getting a UTI (urinary tract infection) too. They/we could do this with one flush at the end as well, but another reason is that at one time long ago, water was not a luxury. Its everywhere and free. So historically and culturally, Indonesian people tend to use a lot of water especially when cleaning. Especially cleaning oneself.
If you take a walk in the housing areas, both the haves and havenots, they will use water liberally. They will use more than the necessary amount. Traditional bathing (with the plastic 'gayung') uses a heck of a lot more water than a regular shower. Also of interest is if you have the opportunity, is to witness the use of water prior to prayer time.
Most Europeans (and subsequently Americans) have learned the hard way that water is expensive, and when living in a cold,dry country, you tend to sweat less. Hence less smell and less of a need to bathe. Not here in Indonesia.
If it werent for the AC, youd be stinking in 3 hours or less.
Its going to take a cultural revolution for Indonesians to cut back on water usage. Some have, but not the majority.

11:50 PM  

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