In the book The Geography of Bliss, journalist Eric Weiner heavily implies that one of the reasons Switzerland is one of the happiest places in the world is that it has clean public toilets. Everywhere you go, from the restaurants to the train stations, you will find that the comfort rooms are so clean that you will be tempted to drink the tap water from the faucet (which is actually very potable in Switzerland). “Even the tiniest rail station has a clean toilet,” shares Andreas Gross, one of the proponents of Swiss democracy whom Weiner interviewed.
Reading this part of the book instantly gave me a flashback of my return trip from Banaue and Sagada last December. I had spent the first two days of my trip without having to unload any major “baggage” from my system, if you get my drift. For some reason, my body didn’t cooperate every time my buttocks hit the toilet bowl in the hotel and so I gave up altogether, thinking that a dose of home would be enough to get my bowel movement working properly again. Unfortunately, it worked properly too soon.
On the bus home, I practically felt my abdomen tearing apart as I summoned all my energy to hold my “baggage” in. Thankfully, our tour group made a stop at Chow King for dinner, giving me a chance to find a comfort room in which to release three days worth of mountain food. But since the CR at Chow King was jam-packed with my fellow tourists, I decided to explore other establishments in the area.
I first went inside a poorly lit comfort room at a gasoline station beside Chow King. But it only took three seconds for me to notice the puddle of blood on the floor near one of the cubicles. It took even less for me to hold my breath and run out the door. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind—the image of about half a cup of dark, almost brownish blood that probably poured out of someone’s intestines. It most likely came from someone whose hemorrhoid problem couldn’t wait until the person got home.
Still, I had my own bowel problems to attend to, and after seeing a Greenwich branch across the street, I figured that fast-food chains probably had better facilities than run-down gasoline stations in the province. Although it didn’t provide much of an improvement (the floor was gray from all the mud that came from people’s shoes), I took out my sanitizing napkins, cleaned the toilet seat, and made the most out of what was available.
Lesson learned. For future trips, I’d force my bowel to cooperate during times when I still have decent toilets to do my business. After all, I don’t need to do a statistical test to figure out that we probably have a few of the worst public comfort rooms in the world. Just a trip to the ones in bus stations and your usual night clubs or eateries in Manila would give you enough evidence of that. I wonder, though, where does that leave the Philippines in the worldwide happiness scale?