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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Of Toilets and Baskets: Or, Flush Your Toilet Paper!!!!

Today I had finished giving my toilet a good scrubbing, after which I tried to flush it to dispose of the toilet bowl cleaner and grime, but the handle on the toilet broke, which kinda sucked. Luckily I didn't leave a huge floating le~nazo in the water, because the stench alone probably would have been enough for the people coming to fix it, to wear hazmat suits before going in. Well I guess more like luckily for them, all they need to do is go in and fix the handle and not worry about handling any toxic material (I had frijoles with chorizo this morning).



Anyhow, after putting in the maintenance order I began to reminisce about my history and toilet paper disposal. Along with this I thought about our culture as Chicanos/as and/or Mexicanos/as. There are some things that we grow up with and that's how we experience them. I started thinking about Chicano/a Studies and the many scholarly articles on Chicano/a culture that are published in respected "journals." Then I wondered if anybody had written about the cultural experience(s) they've had with what happens after they wipe their ass? I'm not talking about washing your hands, but before that. The academic question plaguing me today is - "Do you toss your soiled toilet paper in the basket next to the toilet or do you flush it down the toilet"? I know, I'm sure there are many great minds that discussed and argued this going back to the philosophers Plato and Socrates. A debate that I'm sure many current Chicano/a Studies scholars also argue over and probably discuss before and after sessions (probably even during) at the National Association of Chicano and Chicana Scholars Conference. There has to be someone, who has commented on this, maybe Jose Antonio Burciaga who wrote some humorous stuff about Chicano/a culture in his now canonical Drink Cultura. I think that maybe Gustavo Arrellano of Ask a Mexican might have written about this in response to someone who asked about this situation.



Regardless of whether one of the great Chicano/a minds has written about it yet or not, I began to reflect on my own cultural experience about this. Growing up, my family had gotten all of us to toss our freshly soiled tp into a basket, well a basket that usually had a plastic grocery bag sitting inside of it. As far as I knew this was how everybody did it, regardless of race or creed. But it wasn't until I arrived at college that I found that we Mexicans were wrong in this practicing this in a more civilized country!

I found I was wrong during Spring Break down in Rosarito. Me and a few friends were sharing a hotel room. I proceeded to put in work on the toilet, so after doing work I tossed the used toilet paper into the basket next to the toilet, I washed my hands, felt my stomach more at ease after long night of beer and tacos, and stepped out to get ready for a night of binge drinking. Not long after I had a friend go in and do the same. Except that after stepping out he said "Ew, did you toss your nasty ass brown shitted on toilet paper into that basket?" My response was pretty much "yeah," and I looked at him like he was crazy for asking, or like he had done something wrong. But I guess my toilet paper was shit-side facing up so it was hard for him not to notice.

Nonetheless he said "Ew nigga, that's nasty!"
"Why?" Still not understanding the problem, having always tossed shit encrusted toilet paper into the basket at my parent's home, at my aunts and uncles places a well.
"You need to flush that shit down the toilet! Nigga you nasty!"
I laughed and said "Shut the fuck up."

I seriously didn't believe, him, it's not like we discussed how to get rid of ass-wiped toilet paper in grade school. I never even used the stalls at school, I'd wait till I'd get home. The only thing I'd do at school was take a leakiazo.

He started laughing and then asked if that's what I've always done. Which I did up until I'd arrived at college, the first year I lived in the dorms so I used the stalls and flushed my tp, as opposed to walking out of the stall with my pants half way down my ass just so I could toss the tp into a bin; thanks to common sense. But apparently common sense hadn't really kicked in outside of the dorms.

Eventually me and this friend got into this discussion about proper shit smeared toilet paper disposal etiquette. I pretty much thought my friend got rid of his tp the same way, but he said "Hell naw nigga, my parents woulda beat my ass if I put shit in the basket!"

Then I asked him "So why have a basket next to the toilet?"

"To throw away tissue when you blow your nose, or when women do their make up and use tissue to wipe away their mascara n'shit. Or like if you pluck your nose hairs! Fucken Mexican!"

I still couldn't fully believe my friend, he was trying to dispel something that for me had been not only a habit, but (gasp!) a cultural thing as well. Eventually as we walked through the lobby to go get some dinner, my friend stopped and asked the woman at the desk if "All Mexicans tossed their toilet paper into a basket after they wiped their ass, because my friend says that all of you do it."

She kinda laughed, and realized that wasn't an attempt at a pick up line from my friend, not that she would appreciate being picked up with an opening about fecal matter and toilet paper, but she answered his question nonetheless, saying that it was common, but usually or only in poor neighborhoods that didn't have appropriate plumbing, which causes a back up in the septic system if they flushed their toilet paper, so they tossed the paper into the basket, then when the bag was full they'd toss the bag out into a larger dump. My friend couldn't really help laughing, I couldn't either to a certain extent, because there was some irony in all this, mainly that what the woman was saying that everybody in my family and extended family were poor or lower class because we did this.

I just grew up tossing my tp in a basket, it wasn't questioned, Mexican kids weren't taught to question. If for some reason  we tossed our tp into the toilet and it got backed up we'd get yelled out or we'd get a chinga, and that's how we'd eventually learn why we don't put anything in the toilet but our mierda, and the tp or anything else needs to go in a basket. Lesson hard and well learned, but I had to unlearn that in college. What this woman said wasn't really surprising, but I apparently hadn't realized the implications class had in all of this.

Upon returning to our college town, my friend couldn't stop talking about the tp incident. We went to stay at a friends place because the semester was going to commence in a couple of days, so he brought up the subject matter to the roommate of our friend about how, to which this guy replied that "No man, we always flushed our toilet paper. But I'll kick your ass if you leave your toilet paper just laying outside." We kept talking about this and laughing about it.

I would eventually discuss this with my family, but for them it was a nonissue, we just didn't flush our toilet paper, but we did try to pick up the new habit. It didn't work out, our toilet got backed up right away (this is in the U.S.), but then it could have been that there were about 7 us living in the house, now imagine the variance of tp that each person used, and how many times that toilet was flushed, it created a volatile situation for our poor toilet. Our aunts and uncles were in a similar dilemma because they lived the Mexican interpretation of the American dream, by purchasing a home, but having about 3 - 4 other families living in the same house and at times out in a smaller trailer in the back to make the mortgage payment. Our toilet was lucky compared to the toilets in those homes.

The more I thought about it, I realized there were probably times I went to the homes of distant relatives  and left a nice scrunched up wad of toilet paper with a smattering of brown juxtaposed against the white, making the room smell like something that you could only imagine coming from the Saw film franchise. That family might have taken offense to having my shitty tp in their basket, and I didn't even know it because I was taught that that was what I suppose to do. But then again, a family would be equally offended if you clogged up there toilet not because of your massive le~nazos, but because you decided to flush your voluminous wads of toilet paper down their weak plumbing system.

Flash forward to Fall 2009. I'm in grad school and I get a call from a fraternity brother asking how I'm doing in my program. After some small talk he asks me about the tp ettiquette of a former roommate of mine. "Hahaha! Hey bro, did that fool always leave his toilet paper cagado next to the toilet in the basket when you lived with him?! Hahaha"

"Well I didn't share bathrooms with him, I had my own, so I don't really know what he did."

"Ese buey, aahaha he leaves his toilet paper ahi todo cagado! One of the bros from Davis was up here, and he went to take a shit, and he saw that shit, and he said 'That's nasty. That nigga's shit is green!' It's pretty gross bro. ehehehee"

Mind you, the fraternity brother from my chapter that called me is actually originally from Mexico, but I guess he must have been from the upper class of Mexico that had plumbing working at maximum capacity. I don't know who the fraternity brother from Davis was, so I can't say whether he was actually Mexican or African-American, due to the usage of "nigga," but apparently he also had great plumbing. Oh by the way, my friend that originally started this whole thing about the toilet paper, he is actually African-American, hence his usage of "nigga," but now-a-days, you hear many Latinos/Chicanos referring to each other as "nigga," which is why I thought I should point that out. I also didn't want people thinking wait a minute, is Xicano X really an African-American going through an identity crisis or just a really dark Chicano?

Anyhow back to the story, my fraternity brother just found the tp in the basket inappropriate yet hilarious, I'm not sure if it crossed his mind that we were in a fraternity, and that one of us leaving our green shit stained tp in a basket wasn't the worst of offenses. Our fraternity brother that had green feces was actually from Mexico and had only arrived a few years ago in the states, and as far as I know, like many of us, he was from a rancho that didn't have appropriate plumbing.

My response to the issue of the green shit covered tp: "Uh, well you know what it is. He's from the old country and if he's doing that it means that that's how he grew up."

His reply: "I know bro, but it's still pretty gross. heh heh heh"

"So talk to him about it and tell him it's okay to flush the toilet paper here, because our toilets won't get clogged as easily"I unofficially became a toilet paper disposal etiquette liaison.

"It's pretty funny bro, heeheehee."

But before that incident I remember flying to Queretaro for an internship during the summer of 2007. I was fortunate to get a studio type place in the back of my host family's home. I even had my own bathroom. But when I went to take a shit, I had s serious conundrum, do I flush or toss in the basket the used toilet paper? I was too embarrassed to ask the family what they wanted me to do, the fact the entire family was made up of women didn't help matters either. You just don't really discuss this. In my own apartment back in the states I would flush my tp, but I was now in Mexico where disposing of my tp the wrong way could lead to another embarrassing situation. There was a basket next to the toilet, but did that mean I was suppose to toss my tp in there or was it for other uses like tissue paper I used to pick my nose or for my cum filled condoms? If I flush my tp I risk it backing up the toilet in my room, but also in the plumbing in the main house, which leads to an uncomfortable situation and my possible exile from their home and all of Queretaro. I eventually said fuck it, I need to take a dompe, I'll just do what comes naturally after I wipe my ass. I closed my eyes and dropped the kids off in the public swimming pool. I reached backed with the toilet paper, wiped. Repeated this a few times and finally flushed. What'd I do? I tossed the toilet paper into the toilet. After flushing, I was still nerve wracked waiting for the toilet to overflow with my toilet paper and my kids floating over the rim and onto the light blue linoleum floor. I went to the bed, laid down, turned on the tv, and glanced occasionally at the toilet, waiting for it to eventually burp and upchuck all of my contents. Two hours and still nothing. A few hours later and still nothing. I take a leakiazo almost expecting to bring about my own fear to life. I pour my yellow into the toilet, and think about letting it mellow at the risk of flushing and then having that be the determining factor in having it all surge upward. But I'm almost daring it to happen, I grab the handle and flush, wait to feel the floor get wet as it soaks into my socks, but nothing. I go to bed, pray to god and whatever Aztec and Mayan Gods I don't really know about. Does Cuauhtemoc count? Or was that an Aztec ruler?  I go to sleep expecting the worst but hoping for the best in the morning.

In the morning, there's nothing, no floaters, logs or drifting toilet paper. This still doesn't assuage my conscience though, it takes a couple of more times of this routine for me to finally realize that flushing my tp will be okay. Which then leads me to realize, huh, this must be an affluent family, or just an affluent neighborhood if their plumbing system can handle both my shit and my mierda covered toilet paper. I was relieved. But then again, I was eating from many taco vendors in the area, and my stomach may not have been ready for that type of culinary treat, because I noticed that I wasn't shitting as solidly as I would if I were back in the U.S. chowing down burritos and burgers. It was between solid and the type of watery stuff that comes out of you when you have the runs. So that might have helped my waste flow through that family's plumbing, ergo avoiding a localized international incident. Imagine having to discuss with them toilet paper disposal etiquette and reciting the origins of what I considered normal growing up, and then what I learned during college. Luckily that didn't occur, I returned to the states with no incidents reported.

If nothing else I can say that college paid off, because my financial aid didn't all go to Pale Ale or tequila, it also went toward my education, because I learned about toilet paper disposal etiquette. Only on a United States campus can a lower class Chicano learn this! The Melting Pot works baby! I might not have learned who the fuck wrote the Illiad, who is Cotton Mather, or what the fuck photosynthesis is, but hey I learned appropriate toilet paper disposal. Thank you college. Come to think about it, you can maybe hide your weed if the police raid your place by shoving it way in the bottom of the basket that's up to the top with dungy toilet paper. Who would want to look in there? Then again if they want to be thorough, all they need to do is put on plastic gloves, but it'd still be funny having to see them go through your shit, literally just to find a dime baggy with only a few stems left in it.

So now when you hear or when some of you watch your cerote whirligig into the depths of your toilet, ask yourself, what are the cultural implications of the disposal of my shit smudged toilet paper?

All this from a broken toilet handle.

(Hey you think this is worthy of publication in Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies?)

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