Out of all the things I take for granted, the toilet might be the first on my list. It fulfills the basic need of humans around the globe, yet its importance is always overlooked, because we would much rather appreciate things such as “fine arts” or the “achievements” of our peers, even though none of these things will ever help us in a gastrointestinal emergency.
The realization came to me a few months ago, when my family went on a road trip to Chicago to visit family and take a break from our fast-paced lives. Along the way, we had to stop at a gas station in a shady suburb of St. Louis to take a break and freshen up.
As soon as I peered out the window and caught sight of several individuals who fit right in the “potential criminal” category, I knew I had to make the difficult decision of whether to wait another hour or so for a rest area or to risk my safety leaving the car.
The urgency of my situation forced me to take a risk and walk into the sketchy building. As soon as I realized the bathrooms were locked and I had to ask the male cashier for the key, I knew it would be an unpleasant experience. The bathroom was in horrible condition, and I ended up just washing my hands and leaving as quickly as I could.
It’s a day I don’t particularly like to remember. In fact, I chose to suppress the memory of my experience and forget that it ever happened. But even though it was the one of the grossest experiences I have lived through, it made me think of how hard it is in other countries.
Having visited several foreign countries and seen bathrooms around the world, I know the toilet is a luxury not bestowed upon everyone. There are still many places that don’t have running water, and many of the facilities require people to squat on a dirt floor to take care of their business.
Toilet paper itself is a luxury as well. When visiting a foreign country, I have learned that packing quality toilet paper is often as essential as packing a toothbrush. You never know when you’ll be caught empty handed in a tough situation.
With the added blessing of running water and plumbing, we can easily relieve ourselves and send our waste far, far away, instead of having to cover it with a pile of dirt, as is tradition in some underdeveloped areas of the world.
Thankfully, we live in a country where even the most disgusting bathrooms have a comfortable toilet. We are truly blessed when it comes to our facilities, even though we might not realize their importance on a daily basis.
By Afsah Khan