Being an American these days is becoming more and more embarrassing. We look really bad to the rest of the world and I’m not talking about how we run our elections or our unwillingness to learn the metric system. We’re known globally as the race of people who don’t know how to flush their own poop.
When we travel abroad, it’s bad enough that we can’t speak the language, we’re picky eaters, and we stop to ask people where the closest Starbucks is. But we have become spoiled by toilets that automatically flush, sinks that spew water with a wave of a hand, and paper towels that are delivered right to your snapping fingers.
We’re not living in a sci-fi future, we’re in a Bewitched episode.
Almost every single American public restroom I’ve been in in the past few years have had automatic everything. Do we really need that? And if so, why don’t the other countries need it?
“It’s energy efficient,” my husband snapped when I brought this up to him.
“Is it, though?” I said. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I don’t understand how it can be energy efficient. Many times it flushes before I’m even done — and don’t even get me started on how terrifying that is. Every time it happens, I get so startled I can see myself in the coffin, known as the woman who had a heart attack and got a fatal head injury in the first stall of In-N-Out Burger. Not exactly the legacy I want to leave.”
“You’ve been thinking a lot about toilets?” he asked.
“As a matter of fact, yes. American toilets and why they have to be self-flushing when the other countries don’t seem to have a problem with toilets that don’t flush themselves.”
Ever since we went to Italy and I waltzed out of the stall without flushing and then walked up to the sink and waved my hands around in front of the faucet, and then strode over to the hand dryer and flapped my hands around and when that didn’t work, went to the paper towel dispenser and made like I was shooing away mosquitos and nothing was happening. What was the matter with these Italians? What does a Yank have to do to remove all evidence that she went to the bathroom in this country? Actually touch something?
I was a stupid American who thought that a wave of my hand would cause my bathroom regimen to happen for me. I felt like an idiot.
“I thought you felt like an idiot in Italy because you kept talking in a British accent,” he said.
“That was different. I was confused.”
Not that it has anything to do with automatic flushing toilets, but I did get confused in Italy last year and when I couldn’t decide whether to say Good morning or Buongiorno, I defaulted to a chipper ‘ello! In the voice of the father in the original Mary Poppins movie.
It was stupid. I was confused. I have a problem with making last-second decisions on word choices, which has caused my family endless joy and mirth. The worst part is that every time I do it, someone from my family is there to witness it. When I couldn’t pick between pup and pooch and said “Hey little poop” to a neighborhood dog, my husband was there to hear it. And when I couldn’t decide whether to start a sentence with So or Hey and said, “Say,” all three of my kids were there to record it forever in their brains. They think I was the original inventor of the portmanteau. When “Bennifer” and “Brangelina” hit The Star, my kids scoffed and said, “My mom’s been doing that for years.”
So in Florence when I inexplicably greeted a shop keeper in a Cockney lilt, of course I had witnesses.
“I still don’t get where that came from,” my husband mused. “It’s not like an English ‘Ello! rhymes with anything or is anywhere close to either Buongiorno or Good morning . . . any word, English or Italian, any word at all.”
“Look, I was tired and I was having a really hard time adjusting.”
“Jet lag?” he asked.
“No, using the bathroom. I couldn’t remember to flush.”
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Diane writes about using humor to cope with things in life that suck. Read more of her Just Humor Me columns here. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to get new blog post notifications. And if you like her blog, you’ll love her books, Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves and Great-Grandma Is on Twitter and Other Signs the Rapture Is Near.