I first discovered ‘squatter’ toilets on Route A7 in France, circa 1976. I was six years old. I distinctly remember the chill that ran down my spine as my father explained how I was supposed to use it. “What, you mean I squat with my pants round my ankles, trying not to slip down the smelly hole in the floor? Don’t make me do this, Daddy!”
Forty years later and squatters are still the bane of my life; I’ve never really understood what I’m supposed to do.
For those fortunate not to have experienced a squatter, you’re lucky: it’s a combination of yoga, swimming and sh!tting through the eye of a needle. But what I don’t understand is how I am supposed to maintain a squatting position without getting cramp. And how far down should I squat? Are we talking ‘the ski’ or ‘the buttock-to-heel crouch’? How do I stop myself from falling backwards? How do I avoid touching the filthy, wet floor with my pants? How do I get up without pushing my knee joints out of place? And just how the hell do old, arthritic people manage, for God’s sake?
Here in India quality squatters have three things in common: a cold water tap at knee-height, a great big bucket that sits underneath said tap, and a small jug that hangs on the lip of said bucket. Sometimes an old rotten brush is thrown in for good measure. What are they all for? I haven’t got a clue.
How do I avoid touching the filthy, wet floor with my pants?
All I do know is that toilet paper is never provided. Personally I never travel without a roll in my back pocket, sensibly wrapped up in a zip-lock plastic bag. Wet bog-roll is as useless as a sponge in a mud bath. Locals, meanwhile, use their left hand to do the dirty business, whilst operating either the jug or the bucket to do something involving water. But what, exactly?
What To Do?
What do I do with the jug? Which hand am I allowed to pick it up with? Am I supposed to fill it up and pour it down my back? Do I use it to rinse the left hand? What’s the correct procedure for ‘dousing the privates’? Am I supposed to sprinkle the toilet floor with water so the next patron slips and cracks their head on the knee-high tap? Because I swear that’s what the person before me always does.
What of the bucket? Is that for rinsing my pants? Because inevitably I will have soiled them, either by ineffective elastic not providing good clearance, or by my losing balance as I pull yet another arse muscle.
Still At A Loss
After all this time, and a year of regular squatter use, I’m still at a loss. Avoiding them is not always possible, so my solution is this:
Take toilet paper. Take a towel. Take off all your clothes and balance them on your head if there is nowhere dry to put them. Do your business. Use toilet paper in normal way. Spend the next ten minutes dousing the entire craphouse with water, using a combination of the jug and bucket. Go on, let your hair down. Rub the cramp from your thighs as you hoist yourself up from an impossible position and towel yourself down.
Then spend the next half an hour looking for the soap.