After extensive examination in a field devoid of systematic study, I would like to propose a treatise on a topic rarely divulged. By personal investigative reporting (over one hundred thousand deep knee bends), I submit this authoritative essay on “The Golden Bowl of the East:” the squatty potty.
The origin of the name “Golden Bowl” has been debated, possibly emerging by Marco Polo on his Silk Road adventures. Then again, maybe I made it up when the sole of my sneakers turned that color upon entering the first squatty potty stall. Being ground level to a horizontal urinal doesn’t assure direct access into the porcelain.
Shoes are a must when nearing one of these fixtures. “The better to wade in, my dear.”
Flushing mechanisms differ with squatty potties. Some incorporate long pull chains, dangling from the near ceiling-mounted tank. Most of these handles aren’t easily assessable while you hover over the ground. Part of this is to discourage plump Westerners from using the handgrip as a personal lifting contraption. Part is to encourage the user to stand before the splash of the flush.
Others wield the bucket and scoop method. These are relatively self-explanatory, simply ladle up a dipper full of the standing (and mostly clear) water to rinse your strain down the drain.
Of course, there are also the floor-mounted step-on flushers, which allow you a relatively touch-free experience — but honestly, that’s about as exciting as a can of chick-peas. After all, a hands-on Asian toilet experience affords a much better chance of getting up-close and personal with the local ER.
Finding the toilet isn’t as difficult as you might imagine: follow the gnat-like “potty” flies. The denser the swarm, the closer you are to relief. I am convinced these gnats are direct descendants to the ones that swarmed the Egyptians back in the Exodus caper.
Tissues are not standard issue in Eastern toilets, so be suitably prepared. And please, for the sake of the sewer pipes and the life-span of the potty-fly hatchlings, don’t flush used toilet paper. Leave it in the can provided. You’ll find the trash conveniently located next to your nose while you levitate. Holding your breath may be advisable in these situations unless you are prone to fainting, at which point you might want to plan your strategy for waking up on one of these floors.
While using squatty potties at well-traveled rest areas, you’ll find women’s units on the right and men’s on the left. Wash facilities are located along the outside wall to allow both genders access to the long, trough-like sinks. As a female, consider washing at the left-hand trough, where you may strike up conversations with men at their urinals through the open-air window just above your basin. Why waste time on E-Harmony?
The more remotely you travel, the less privacy you may expect. Doors may or may not exist, and walls may only be waist-high. Once in the stall, do not look over the wall, for fear of a mooning by your neighbor.
Most rural squatties utilize the bucket and scoop method but have only one disposal drain between them. Built on a slight slope, these allow gravity to keep everything streaming the right direction.
Each participant faces toward the separating wall, rather than the doorway, to straddle the single trough that serves all five stalls. Westerners tend to prefer the booth at the highest point so that only that which they personally produce passes underneath them. Just keep a mountain-climbing mentality while in these areas, i.e., “Don’t look down.”
By closing your eyes, holding your breath, and clutching your trousers, you will find the squatty potty a pleasant experience. For me personally, this in-depth study also solved an age-old culture question I had pondered for years. Now I understand why some cultures leave their shoes outside their doors.