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I’ve been thinking about posting a universal, below the belt story for a long time. Neither pleasant dinner conversation nor novel watercooler gossip; it most certainly is bathroom chatter. And in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic where squares of toilet paper are trading as if they were gold bullions, perhaps now is not such a shitty time to bring this up.

Let me back it up with some personal history: I partly grew up in Latin America and spent a lot of time in Europe. These are places on Earth that may not have as high of a GDP or as stable a political climate, but they have a reverence and use for the bidet. In fact, in some European countries, a bidet is required by law. Bidets are also popular in many parts of Asia and the Middle East. They view a lack of a bidet as a savage quality.

For the uninitiated, the bidet is a mini-tub or a plumbed receptacle for your privates. It is usually located a foot or two away from the actual toilet. It ensures that after you do your business, you can clean up your business. With water, or soap if you’d like. No need to get in the shower and no need to just do a superficial paper wipe. For kids, it’s a great way to also wash their dirty feet when they’ve been running around barefoot. Think of it as your personal, private power wash.

Of course, if you don’t have space, don’t fret. The Japanese have actually perfected

the bidet by genetically modifying it to the toilet, allowing for one contraption in your washroom. Afterall, they are tight on space.

This summer, we had the pleasure of visiting Japan. And I’ve never had a cleaner you-know-what. Over three quarters of the country owns a Toto Washlet®. And while TOTO has done a formidable job in promoting itself on a global scale, INAX® and Panasonic® are also great brands. In Europe, Kohler® is also revered for the rear.

The great thing about these hybrid bidets is that they allows the participant to clean with warm or cold water. The water jets can be angled to clean front or back. Some provide music or seat warmth. I mean, I don’t think my LG washing machine has this many settings! I’m kind of grateful the Japanese care more about my rump than my t-shirts. In Japan you find Toto washlets in restaurants and gas station bathrooms. No kidding, the gas station bathrooms I went to in Sapporo were so clean. You almost want to sit and read the NYTimes--they're that welcoming. In the US, I’d rather piss on a bush than use a BP stall.

We may turn our nose at the lifestyle habits of some cultures, but trust me there are plenty turning their noses at our sanitary habits in public and private bathrooms. When my cousin’s husband visited us from Rome a few summers ago, he was horrified at the fact that we had no bidet.

So perhaps, as the last package of Charmin hits ebay for $200, we can think about investing in a $3000 TOTO Washlet or a cute bidet for a few hundred dollars. One 2019 Scientific American article noted that if the majority of Americans used some form of a bidet, 15 million trees would be saved. Even COSTCO has gotten in on the trend by selling TOTO Washlet seats that seats that attach to your current, elongated toilet (note: you will need an electrician to put an outlet nearby). I actually picked one up on my last COSTCO run for under $400. There were dozens of them, even though there were no toilet paper or paper towels to be had.

As I was leaving the store, I asked the man scanning my receipt, "Have these just been flying off the shelves?" He looked at me and said, "You're the first I see with one. Not quite sure how you work them."

Maybe it's time to learn how to work them. And welcome them ... into our homes. As we evolve technologically with our hands-free phones and cars, I can only hope that the hands free, paperless toilets are next on the US evolutionary chain.

No TOTO, we’re not in Kansas. Not yet.

Photo caption: Toto and Claire Mueller.


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