Sunday, November 26, 2006

First World Tech, Third World Habits

It's not so often that Big Sam and I get out to a "real" movie theater these days. We've become addicted to the unusual films one can order through one of those major online dvd services, and no late fees! Considering that in the past I've built up some sizable debts owed to the local video store because I can't quite get those videos back by midnight, the online service is a blessing.

But I digress.

A year or two back one of the big movie chains built a new cinemaplex with all the bells and whistles a couple of towns away from us. It has a towering neon sign, multiple screens, an eight quintazillion calorie snack bar, and loads of brand new techno refinements on traditional necessities, especially in the restrooms.

It's amazing to me that one can simply wave one's hand in front of the paper towel dispenser and out come perfectly sized pieces of towel, ready to wipe off those last little traces of dampness. Even the dampness you wipe off is created automatically, because another wave of the hand underneath the faucet delivers a precisely timed cascade of water to rinse off the pre-foamed soap produced by the highly chromed dispenser, the need for which is created by the call of nature answered in the stall.

Ah, the stall. Surely here the high tech luxury stops, right? Wrong! Raise your bottom from the seat and, well, all embarrassing products are whisked from sight before you can open the door.

Now I wouldn't be talking about such indelicate things if there wasn't a point, would I, darlin'?

Don't worry, I'll get there!

The movie we saw was unremarkable, another action epic with multiple explosions of the manufactured variety. Made me think of Iraq, though, which is never uplifting, but Big Sam likes his action movies, that's for sure.

It was a loooong action epic, too, which led to my pressing need to take comfort in the refuge of the ladies room. I walked in expecting the pristine cleanliness that automata of the highest sort leads one to believe awaits. Boy, was I surprised! The paper towels spilled over the top of the trash containers and littered the floor for yards in every direction. The counter was scattered with used towels as well.

It made me rather leery of trying a stall, but the call of nature was insistent, so I began pushing open the stall doors, searching for a clean stall.

Remember, this is not a small restroom. This is a restroom that serves the umpteen screen megacinema, and it has upteen bathroom stalls as well. So I was pushing at stall doors for a good long, and this is what I saw.


Everywhere, filth. If the seat wasn't wet, the bowl was unflushed. Worst of all were the piles of obviously used toilet paper in the corners behind the toilet itself.

Now this town is one that has changed the character of its residents in recent years to favor the newcomers from our neighbor to the south. But surely the cinema has help, probably from the same part of the hemisphere, to clean up. Nowhere was a sign that this had been done, not that I could see. It looked like it must have been hours and hordes of bathroom users since the last hygienic go-through.

How could this happen? I wondered, then remembered what a teacher friend had told me about how the recently-moved-from-south-of-the-border students at her school treated the girls room there.

"Now maybe it's because some overly frugal plumbers down south use pipes too small to carry the paper and waste from the toilet to its ultimate destination", she said, "but most of our girls don't put their toilet paper in the bowl. They drop it next to the toilet, because that's what they do back home."

Thinking about that and surveying the paper-strewn landscape before me, the clean freak part of me shuddered and cringed. The germophobe in me started thinking about whether I'd brought the the little tube of hand sanitizer with me. The coward in me retreated from the abominable scene. I could wait till we got home to use the toilet.

Now I don't know what you all think, but it seems like it must be at least a minor sin in God's economy to combine all that beautiful first world technology with those third world habits of hygiene.

It certainly is a shame, and bad for business.


Scorebored said...

Truly disgusting. Even my cat knows enough to cover her waste and not to leave it lying out in the open.

Of course, she probably discerns in her feline way that in the Scorebored household, SOMETHING will be buried: either the cat dung, or the cat. She chooses wisely.

How I wish that foreigners among us saw such choices (act right, or suffer the consequences) with the clarity my cat possesses.

Laurel1861 said...

Minor postscript to this post! Yesterday I went to the local Big Box store to pick up some necessary items. As I returned to my car and was about to put away my purchases, my eyes were drawn to the pool of light generated by one of the large parking lot lights. (It gets dark early these days!) There, silhouetted as if it was center stage at the opera, was a soiled baby diaper.

You are right, Scorebored. Even a cat knows enough to cover its waste.