Having Fun with Toilet Talk

Photo: Merrell Publications

Don’t you just love when some of your best teaching moments as a parent come along accidentally? A few weeks ago I drove to Washington D.C. with my husband and two of our four children. That translates to six hours in a car together, one way. We played a few license plate games. Then played a few word games. Then we started to hit the wall of boredom. Fortunately the bag full of library books contained a treasure. A small morsel called Toilets of the World, by Morna E. Gregory and Sian James.

Now if you’ve never found yourself trapped in a car with two boys, ages 10 and 14, with nothing but the long road ahead of you, you might not understand my excitement. But I immediately spotted the potential for great conversation starters.

I’d flipped through the book before, when it crossed the desk at the library where I work. How can a book with that title not catch your eye? It’s small size made it perfect to throw into the book bag when I was packing for our trip. And as our boys soon found out, the graphic pictures are not the only cool thing about this manual.

We actually learned a lot about other cultures, by learning about their toilet habits. There is a description for each region of the world in the pages before each chapter. Who knew that, in general, the further south one goes in Europe, the less maintained you will find your public toilets? If this book is accurate, it’s not uncommon to find an expensive, crowded restaurant in southern Europe with one toilet for a hundred guests, men and women combined.

I have a new appreciation for the bidet, as the boys and I read about their popularity in much of the rest of the world. And the reasons for their use made sense. Fewer trees cut down for toilet paper. Fewer plumbing problems with nothing but water entering the pipes. Suddenly they don’t seem so strange and scary anymore.

Feeling pretty smug about myself, that I had known about the bidet for years, I was quickly humbled to learn I knew almost nothing about another type of toilet that’s also used by a large population, especially in Asia, called the squat toilet.

Learning the ins and outs of the logistics of this variation of toilet kept our car conversation going for quite a long time. Appropriate pictures, from around the world, balanced out the discussions we had. Each chapter has a picture on each page, with a short explanation next to it.

If you want a new way to learn about the world, consider this happy accident we stumbled upon, and another I found after we got back home. By learning how people around the world take care of the basic bodily function we all deal with several times a day, we felt not only more informed, but more connected to our earthly neighbors. If you have school aged kids, give this book, and this topic, a try.

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