As mentioned in my last entry, Hong Kong, where I lived for 30 years before escaping to Mallorca, is full of public toilets.
I like public toilets. They represent freedom. Here in Mallorca you have to go to a bar or restaurant if the urge takes you, or try to stand it until you get home. I always feel obliged to buy something as a thank you for the use of their service, and that something is normally a coffee, which ironically only exacerbates the situation.
With public toilets, on the other hand, you’re in and out in a couple of minutes, no small talk, no coffee, you provide your own tissue - sorted.
Many of the public toilets in Hong Kong even have western style, sit-down toilets, which, if you’re wearing a long dress or long trousers, are easier to use than the squatting toilets so hated and reviled by many western visitors in Asia.
Me, I never minded squatting. In fact, one of the first “Chinese” things I taught myself when I first arrived in China in 1988 was to squat and stay squatted as long as possible. I can still do it. It’s good for health! And indeed, Hong Kong people, and especially the el cheapo tourists from mainland China who started flooding into HK in the mid 2000s (they were known as ‘locusts’ -swarming in, buying up everything and leaving) couldn’t quite get used to these sit-down toilets with their many rings and covers. They climbed up and squatted on top of the porcelain, often on top of the plastic ring.
No matter how upmarket the hotel or shopping mall: if you got in there before the toilet attendant had had time to clean after the last customer, you would find the shoe prints of Jimmy Choo or whatever, on top of the porcelain.
I couldn’t help thinking how acrobatic these people must be. Not only balancing on top of the narrow ring, but in high heeled shoes as well. Even in bars, while sloshed! I wondered if there is a statistic somewhere of toilet related incidents of concussion or downright death of drunken high-heeled altitude squatters?
The Hong Kong government tried to get rid of the menace with signs like these:
But to no avail. Who would want their under-thigh skin to touch the places where other people’s skin - or worse - had been?
In all my years in China and Hong Kong I saw only once a solution to this dilemma and it was brilliant. It was in a youth discotheque in Hunan province: A sit-down toilet where one could squat only a few centimetres up from the floor without the fear of serious injury, and with space to park your fag. It was so simple and ingenuous, it was bound not to catch on.
I wonder if there were public toilets in Mallorca before the advent of bars? Perhaps they have had them and removed them again? Or have they always used church stairs and the backs of dustbins?
While I plough through the history books, you can learn some Spanish. It’s easy, just buy for a modest, nay, tiny sum my book Plonkers Abroad, Learn Spanish without Really Trying.
If that sounds too ordinary, learn Cantonese instead, or as well as, with my course Cantonese - The Movie!
Why, you ask. Well, you’ll be sticking it to communism, for a start!