A Short History of my Life with Bidets

Chauncey the Bidet and Derrick the Cockatoo

It’s been a little over two weeks since I moved into a new flat. Like almost anyone, I have gotten accustomed to my new neighborhood. And not just the big, basic things like how long it is to get to the metro or the shop. I’m also getting used to the little things, like my preferred ATM or the shortcuts to the main road. Or the most efficient path through the grocery store.   

I am getting used to the little things in my flat, too. I am figuring out which windows allow the best breeze, where the floor creaks are, and where I stand around nekkid in my living room without accidentally giving the neighbor a mildly disappointing peepshow.

But in terms of the little things, it’s the water things that’s taking a while to get used to. I lived in my last flat for thirteen years, and so I knew my shower, toilet, and sinks like old friends. There were no surprises. I knew that the water pressure was going to be strong in the shower and exactly how to angle the nozzle at what exact pressure to avoid soaking the floor or ceiling. I knew that if I was in the mood to drink really cold water I’d pour from the bathroom tap, which, along with most of Prague’s pubs, spews absolutely glacially cold H2o. I knew the water pressure in my kitchen so well that I could turn it on without looking, walk away, and come back when I knew the sink would be filled to the desired level.

Now I have to get used to a new shower, a new bathroom, and new sinks. The water pressure is different as is the water temperature from the respective taps. I am acclimating myself to a new water system.

So is the cat. Every morning I was greeted by not so much a cat, as by a continuous thronging of meows from a mobile furball beneath my feet. It didn’t stop until I turned on the tap in the bathroom for her. She would then drink, play, and then stare at the water in amazement. Occasionally she’d pass her paw through it to test its stability. While I showered, she’d stand on the shelf watching me the way I watch Keith Moon play the drums. It is a picture of astounded.

In the new flat, I haven’t quite learned how to control the shower, so the bathroom floor is often wet. I have been drinking lukewarm water and washing my hands in freezing cold water. The cat, a literal creature of habit, meows at the bathroom sink, but can’t quite get her head under the tap as it’s lower than in my last flat. So she spends a lot of time trying to understand the geometry of the sink. It’s a bit sad.

Oh, and then there’s the bidet.

A short history of my life with bidets

Age 24, Salzburg, Austria: First trip to Europe, first experience with a bidet. Unfortunately thinking it to be a (for some reason, grated) toilet, I pee into it. I drunkenly admit this to my Australian travel partner, which confirms his belief that Americans are the globe’s yokels.

Age 31, Egypt: not so much a bidet, but a hose. The intense heat of Egypt in July matched up with the oppression of pants leads a crotch area with the temperate consistency of a low bog in an Amazonian rainforest. Heretofore understanding of the concept of “itchy” is blown out of the water. Discovery of a hose at the toilet. Subsequently find that the capability to focus extremely hot water on the area below produces so much euphoria that it should be listed as a Schedule I Narcotic. American travel partner labels the amount of time I spend in the bathroom as “suspicious.” Sleeps with light on.

Age 42, Japan: Spend two weeks enjoying the technological Disney World that is the Japanese toilet. Heating my seat, water spray in such a wide variety of formations that I feel like I am sitting on one of those musical entertainment fountains (and I like it). Perfume. Air dry. And a whole lot of buttons I can’t understand and therefore do not dare touch. Struggle with the possibility that there might be a pizza button. Resolve to never mock Japanese tendency for inventing techno-curiosities ever again.  

Ages 24-44.4: A dark age. I am mostly incapable of informing any bidet argument, discussion, or commentary. I mostly stick to telling nostalgic tales of the Egyptian taint-tastic adventures in a noticeably wistful voice. I keep the misadventure in Salzburg a secret. Whenever Japan is mentioned, I take off my hat.

Age 44.5: Move into new flat which has a bidet hose. Outlook and life radically change.

In the sixteen days I have been living in my flat, I have said the word “bidet” roughly 600 times. Usually without context or reason. I bring a bidet into conversation 1000% more often that I did seventeen days ago. I am learning bidet techniques, the level and strength of stream preference, closeness of the nozzle, I have spent whole mornings thinking about the benefits of warm vs. hot water or hot vs. cold water.

Not only has the bidet changed my bathroom life, it has so changed my cultural outlook. At times I feel more Czech than American. My love of public transport, my views on mid-week day drinking and other social mores. But this is the first time I have felt more European than American. When I use my bidet, I feel as though I am smoking cloves in an outdoor café as admirers ogle my new beret. I am voting for Bernie.

My cat can’t quite figure it out. Probably figuring she’d never have to master another water outlet, she’s probably a bit uprooted. When Burke isn’t home and I can leave the bathroom door open while purifying the ole system and the cat naturally sits in front of me and asks me to explain the universe. When the bidet is employed she stares at it in awe and wonder, the way a Neanderthal might regard a mobile phone, a toaster, or pants.

We’re getting there. I’m slowly finding my water preferences, tendencies, and hiccups. I’m making new friends with the water output systems in the flat. Soon we’ll be buddies. And me and my bidet will tramp forth cleaner and happier. On a side note, I can now never move.     

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