Sunday, February 7, 2010

Everybody poops

Last week I had to make a pretty humiliating phone call to the Irishman. It went something like this:

me: "Hi, it's me"
him: "Hi" (when he's at work he is very serious on the phone)
me: "I have a confession to make"
him: "Ok"
me: "You know how I felt a bit sick after the curry we had last night"
him: "Yeah"
me: "Well, before I left for work I went to the bathroom" (he leaves for work earlier than me)
him: "Ok..."
me: "And now I feel better, but..."
him: "Uh, okay..."
me: "Well, uh, I mean, what I'm trying to say"
him: "YES?"
me: "I'mreallysorrybutwhenIflusheditalldidn'tgoawayandItriedtousetheplungerbutitdidn'tworksoI'msorrythereisapresentforyouwhenyougethome."
him: "Oh right (chuckle). That's okay. Gotta go bye."

I'm recounting this ridiculous episode for you because it's actually something that's been on my mind for nearly a year now - the way British people deal with, well, poop. The topic came to my attention when I realized soon after moving here that every bathroom (or "loo") features a toilet brush. Not just residential bathrooms, mind you; every loo in my office has a toilet brush, every pub and bar toilet stall has one, even public restrooms like in train stations have them. Obviously I've scrubbed a toilet in my time, but I didn't quite grasp that if you use a toilet and leave a little behind it is common courtesy to scrub it away. I grew up in a house with four bathrooms - my father is quite proud that there is one for each of us - and it is a testament to my mother's housekeeping that the bathrooms were always spotless. But the toilet brush remained far out of sight, in the cupboard with the cleaning supplies. In college and my subsequent apartments, I only had one shared commode and then I think our toilet brushes lived next to the toilet just for convenience's sake, but I don't think anyone used it unless it was with the toilet bowl cleaning solution. I asked the Irishman once about this topic, and he was incredulous that it wasn't part of my psyche to understand that brush + bowl = scrub more often than not. I didn't want to attribute this behavior, or lack thereof, to Americans overall; maybe it's just me and I didn't want to flush my entire nation down with me. But I am curious about this cultural difference, so American readers - what's your loo etiquette?


  1. I have never seen a toilet brush next to a public toilet before! What a wonderful concept, though, cleaning up after yourself so that the next person who goes in doesn't have to view your mess...
    Now I wonder if there were toilet brushes next to the toilets that I used while in London, but which I simply didn't notice!

  2. Hahahaha, there probably were! But did the people before you use them, that's the question. It is a nice concept, but definitely takes a while to dawn on you.

  3. So funny--another American gal whose blog I follow posted about this topic awhile ago too ( I agreed with her--the porcelain must not be as smooth here, or the plumbing/water pressure is different, but we've got 4 toilets and 4 toilet brushes in our house...totally gross and totally necessary!

  4. huh... i didn't know this! today i was looking for a toilet brush at work.

    oops... maybe TMI?

  5. I've investigated this myself. It's because American toilets are true bowls. The bowl is half full of water. In the U.K., they're kinda more funnel-like and the water that is in the bowl just isn't very deep. I lived in Germany for 6 months in 2003 and that was even worse. Those toilets have what's known as "the shelf." Seriously--Google German toilet shelf. There are even videos.

    P.S. Lately, I haven't been able to leave comments using my Typepad Profile. Very odd. I keep getting an Open ID error.

  6. Hahaha, oh that's hilarious everyone. I never realized I would get so many comments on a post about poop. It really is a universal topic, no? And thanks Me for giving us the inside scoop (I hope that wasn't gross) on the engineering reality of Euro-toilets. Too funny.

  7. Not sure why I came through as Me! It's Krista, your fellow tri-state-area-now-London-resident-blogger from

    Still won't let me post using my Typepad profile. Would you consider adding the option to just write in your name and URL? That's what I normally use on blogs.