Tuesday, August 23, 2011

THE ITALIAN TOILET:A CHALLENGE TO YANKEE INGENUITY (GROSS-OUT ALERT)

This posting should come under the heading of "Unmentionables." I've been sitting on it since my first encounter with an Italian toilet, which means many flushes ago.

Most of us are creatures of habit who have been using a toilet for quite a while. But Italian toilets hold many pitfalls for unsuspecting Americans. They require a certain flexibility of position that does not come easily to everyone. There is a definite learning curve to using them.

This being Italy, where style is king, Italian toilets come in many different designs. Regardless of the toilet's shape or style (the one our son and daughter-in-law chose is actually square--perfect for those with square posteriors), the Italian toilet requires the successful user to adapt to a position that may well be unfamiliar. The leaning-back-to-rest-on-your-laurels approach is NOT going to work.

Have a square posterior? No problem!

Yes, here in Italy, we have designer toilets that cater to all shapes and sizes.

In my classes and out, I often talk about the literary concept of the signature--of putting a personal stamp on things, of leaving a mark (see LEAVING A MARK posting from Jan. Also 2 July posts related to "DRAGNET"), but this is not the kind I mean. If, in your encounters with the Italian toilet, you resist change and persist in going your own way, the result is not going to be pretty. To put it mildly, it is not going to take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out if an American has sat there.

MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO KNOW

Now while on the rich topic of toilets and related unmentionables, I must confess to a certain preoccupation with them. For example, during our Italian renovation plans, I asked to have an electric outlet positioned near the toilet in my bathroom so that, should the Toto toilet make it to Italy, the way would be paved for me to get a Toto heated toilet seat that also has the built-in washing features of a bidet.

This gizmo, called the "Washlet," is one of my prized possessions back in the States--a great comfort during the cold New England winter. When I first read about Toto toilets in, of all places, Time Magazine, it was in the context of an article making fun of Japanese obsessions. The very idea of going to the warmed toilet and getting a temperature and pressure-controlled wash and blow dry sounded very comical, indeed. The tone was, "Oh those wacky Japanese! What will they think of next?"

WAS IT FATE?

I put the whole thing on a back burner until, while paying a winter visit to my mom's oldest friend, I asked to use her bathroom. There, to my amazement, I found myself face-to-face with the super-deluxe Toto toilet of my dreams. In that bathroom on that blustery day, I really did feel like a Principessa. So much so that I went back to use the facilities more than once, and encouraged my skeptical husband to do the same. Even he was impressed.

So when we did our own bathroom renovation in the States, we invested in the cheapest of the Toto products, the "Washlet,"which can be used atop toilets of any brand. No need to spring for the top model, which can set you back thousands of bucks. I should add that even in America, Toto toilets are not yet mainstream, and any discussion of them with plumbers is likely to result in paroxysms of laughter. At the plumbing store where we tried them out (nothing like sitting on toilets in the middle of a busy showroom to result in hilarity all around), we were shocked at the way the sticker price went up if you opted for the drying feature. Even the salesman said, "Look, lady. Why don't you save yourself some money and just use your hairdryer?" He had a good point, and we decided to nix what seemed an unnecessary feature;however, I read that movie stars like Brad Pitt who do not pinch pennies went for the $5,000 model with all the bells and whistles.

IF YOU AREN'T GROSSED OUT ALREADY, YOU MAY BE WONDERING, "SO HAS THE TOTO TOILET MADE IT TO THE ITALIAN COUNTRYSIDE, AND DO YOU HAVE ONE THERE?"

Well, yes and no. Apparently so far only the super-deluxe model with TELECOMMANDO has made it here. No cheap "Washlet" models for Italy! At least not yet. I guess that if you're nutty enough to want one, you should be willing to pay the piper. But frankly, our cheaper model at home, with its quaint on/off buttons and heat and pressure temperature dials works just fine. Remote controls do not excite me, especially if they cost $2000 euros. And what if the batteries should run out at an inopportune moment?

TAKING ACTION

I emailed the head of the Toto company to ask when the cheaper "Washlet" would be making its debut in Umbria, and got what appears to be a form letter in Japanese. I'm guessing that it says some version of "not in your lifetime." So that lonely electric socket near the toilet is still awaiting its Toto Washlet, and come winter, to sit down on a cold Toto-less throne is not likely to be a cozy experience for this wannabe Principessa.

Something tells me, however, that Toto does a great business with all the stars who have homes here in Italy. Maybe George Clooney wouldn't mind if I stopped by and asked to use his bathroom?

TOO MUCH INFORMATION?

Having already heard plenty about Italian toilets, you probably thought that was the end of the story. Me, too. But no. The Toto toilet has finally gone viral, having made it onto Esquire magazine's list of "Best Things in the World." And who might be the author of the encomium to Toto? A self-described, "non-constipated Jewish male who wears his 'regularity' proudly" and confesses to "blissfully sitting on his Toto a minimum of 5x/day."

SO TO SUMMARIZE AND ANSWER THE QUESTION, "CAN YOU GET A TOTO TOILET IN ITALY?"...

The only model available here (so far) comes with a TELECOMMANDO/remote control, and you know what THAT means:

1. It isn't cheap

2. The telecommando eliminates the fun of pushing the Front/Rear "WASH" or "STOP" buttons, not to mention playing with the temperature and pressure adjustment dials

3.If I had sprung for the top-of-the-line model, there would have been a "free" blow-dry included

4. Plumbers from miles around would be laughing all the way to the bank at those nutty Japanese and Americans who need all these toys in their bathroom

No comments:

Post a Comment