First Draft

There was a conversation I had with some friends while being ignored by the waitresses at a restaurant on top of a mountain in Anhui, China. He said that one of the worst insults in the Putonghua language can be loosely translated to “Your mother has a stinky vagina.” As travelers we find that cultures often run contradictory to each other yet, almost all countries have their own flowery versions of the phrase “son of a bitch.”

There’s no greater insult than saying the person who carried you to term and nurtured you is impure. It’s an idea that we can all agree on, is universally bad.

But then, how rare are these universal instances? With so many different cultures, languages, religions that most people would ground their identity on, how do they agree what is bad? This truth is most apparent in the 613 mitzvots of Judaism. Breaking the rules of Kashrut by mixing cheese and meat? That’s a paddling.

First Draft: Take Two

Alexandre looked like a weary warrior when I met him at the stuffy, battered and almost decrepit Don Mueng Airport. Maybe it’s because I dragged him away from a Canadian winter, to the steaming scullery of the world, Thailand. Or maybe he’s just haggard because of his 21 hour flight.

On a crammed bus to the BTS station, as we were sandwiched beside a school girl and a panting business man sweltering in his suit, Alexandre confessed. He said he needed to poop, after his long Montreal to Beijing flight. So he went to the washroom, and saw rows of empty cubicles. Delighted, he picked one, but saw that it wasn’t hmm…. “normal-looking.” No matter, he just picked another one, and another one, until he gasped at the realization.

They’re all squat toilets.

Alexandre was not a man who falters so he just took off his pants and said okay, this is happening. Of course, for me, this was comedic gold. I guffawed as the business man next to me politely smiled even if i’m 100% sure he had no idea what was so funny.

It was like the elevator scene from The Shining, but instead of an insane amount of blood, it would just be a lone, porcelain squat toilet. And for many people, it’ll be just as scary.


My teacher told me today, a cool one, named Geoffrey Pearce, said that “It’s psychologically traumatizing, completely re-configuring [sic] the way we think about poop.” He is right.


I wonder what word should I use to discuss our excrement. I’ve exhausted an arsenal of words in the dictionary. I can’t use shit obviously. Caca is too juvenile. Should I use a polite word such as feces? I can only imagine that, “my good butler James, just wiped my runny feces from our broken commode.” I settled on good ‘ole poop. It’s unassuming, could be cute, and it’s already embedded in people’s lexicon.


With Alexandre’s baptism of fire in Beijing, he became somewhat of an authority with all things toilet related. At his work place, someone mentioned their interest in purchasing a bidet. He deftly answered the question with the grace of a ballerina, if the ballerina in question was a chunky turd and the theater was his bathroom. His co-worker asked, how come you weren’t so shocked about bidets in Asia. He mentioned, and I could only hope that it wasn’t in a gloating manner, using a wide smile and two thumbs up to boot, “My girlfriend showed me.”

I don’t think we have any boundaries. We think it’s a good thing (we can’t say otherwise, it’s to late- we’ve crossed the line and we can’t go back). After all, he already found out at age 7 that girls don’t poop butterflies and candy. This way, issues get resolved. Skirting around a natural fact of life makes innovation hard, and by golly, does our current sanitation system need it.


Having to talk about such a sordid affair is, distasteful. I certainly would be happy to talk abut literally anything else– be it easy conversation topics such as the Arab springs, depleted fresh water reserves and the sorry state of our rain forests.

These are not arbitrary choices, this toilet talk essentially boils down to these issues above.







One thought on “First Draft

  1. I’m afraid this is not going to work. You can’t write a paper asking, “What is bad?” Good and bad are completely relative terms. As a result, they are, essentially, meaningless words. You’ll have to find a new topic. Please come and speak to me so I can help you with this.


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