Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Battle of the Bathroom Bowls

What's a boy to do?

By Walter Jowers

JUNE 14, 1999:  Every now and then, co-inspector Rick and I run across a house with a bidet. This is a true burden, because when we sign on to inspect a house, we promise to check the bathroom fixtures if at all possible.

I'm just going to go ahead and confess: After performing dozens of failed tests, after asking a few discreet questions, after doing a fair amount of Internet research, I still don't know a good way to test a bidet. From everything I can learn, you can't really test a bidet unless you take your britches off, squat down, and actually put the thing through its paces, whatever those paces are.

I think I know what a bidet is supposed to do, which is: Squirt water up so people--particularly women--can wash their bottoms. But I'm unclear on the details of how this works.

The thought of me or Rick fooling with a bidet reminds me of the time I watched an elderly Englishwoman try to operate a can of Redi-Whip. She'd never seen Redi-Whip, so, in her efforts to get the cream out, she pounded on the bottom of the can, and she milked the nozzle in the manner of milking a cow. Eventually, I walked over and whispered, "Push the nozzle sideways." Once she got the hang of it, she was like a cavewoman with fire. She creamed several platters of little pies, and was visibly disappointed when the can ran out of propellant.

I'm still waiting for somebody to give me the same kind of gentle guidance about bidets. Problem is, all the info I can find on bidets is full of euphemisms, allusions, and delicate little hints. Nobody will come out and say what they really mean. This is annoying. I am a highly skilled professional. I could handle the truth, if only I could find it.

I read some marketing propaganda for a retrofit bidet, which you can put in place of your existing commode seat. It has two nozzles, which come from the back side of the seat. There's a shorter "family" nozzle and a longer "woman's" nozzle. There's no real explanation for this, but I'm pretty sure I get it. There's also a little blow-dryer built into the contraption, and a radiant heater built into the seat itself.

At one bidet manufacturer's Web site, I read that bidets save toilet paper. I tried to picture how this would happen. Nothing I pictured made me want to get a bidet. Everything I pictured triggered this mental note: Don't shake hands with people who use bidets.

Here's what I've learned about bidets:

First, the water squirter will shoot water clear up to the ceiling.

Two, the water is cold.

C, there is no seat on a bidet.

Which brings me to this: If bidets are made chiefly for women, and there are no seats on bidets, and the whole purpose of a bidet is to direct a fire-hose-strength spray of cold water at a woman's bottom, why in the world do women put up such a big fuss when a man leaves a commode seat up? At worst, if a woman's biomechanics and muscle memory were way off, and she failed to hold up at the critical 90-degree squat position, she would gently splash down in a pool of 75-degree water. This was good enough for all 12 of America's moon-walking astronauts. Compared to the cold wet blast of the bidet experience--which the bidet manufacturers call "refreshing"-- how bad could a little commode dunk be?

Understand, I'm all for being nice to the women. Except for me, everybody at my house is female. Outside of using their fingernail-polish remover when I need a good weapons-grade, lung-damaging solvent, I try to stay out of their stuff and on their good side. But I freely admit, I don't spend two seconds a day thinking about whether I left the commode seat up or down. The process at our house is simple, and it applies to all of us: Check the commode before you use it, put the seat where you want it, do what you need to do, flush, and get on with life. There are no lectures, shaming looks, or other penalties if you don't make the seat ready for the next user.

I think our laissez-faire commode seat policy is good training for life in general. It's not good to assume that other people are going to go out of their way to make things better for you. It's not good to assume that the way you like things is always the right way. Stripped to the basics, the life lesson here is: It's your ass, and you have to take care of it yourself.

That said, here's my policy when I'm in a house where the women complain about men who leave the seat up: When I'm done with the commode, I put down the seat and the lid. I'm not going to risk dropping the women into the bowl, but I am going to make 'em turn around and look before they sit.

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