Just flush it down the drain!

Incipient note: People have complained about my toilet humour before. Now at least they’ve got a point.


Last Thursday we came back from a one-week holiday. We touched down in Gatwick and, being the good female that I am, I was bursting for a pee. I mean, I had to strap myself into a seat for all of landing and taxiing and then there was a queue to get off the plane at that, so it was almost 30 minutes without access to a loo. That’s just inhumane! But I digress.

The real horror came when I finally reached the first lavatory in the airport building.

On this planet, toilet designs with questionable aesthetics abound, and I’m afraid I have seen (and used) them all: Squat toilets, latrines, port-a-potties, outhouses, German dry pan toilets (they are great because your bottom stays dry but they smell like… well, potty), toilets that clog up so easily that you can’t throw the toilet paper in but have to toss it into a basket next to the loo instead…

The shocking part about British toilets, however, is not the bowl design, it’s the flushing system. Every time I am at a restaurant, cinema, supermarket, pub, park, swimming pool, mall, airport or other public place and need to take a leak, I tremble with anticipation of what I might find.

Unfortunately, in an estimated 90 % of all public powder rooms, I am greeted by The Handle.



Note that The Handle is inevitably attached to a humongous cistern


This sight instantly triggers an imaginary sound in my auditory cortex, namely the signature screech from ‘Psycho’. That’s when I know I will speedily have to don my mental Kevlar vest to protect myself from getting too worked up about two things:

1. I will probably have to push down the lever several times with all my might in order to pump up enough water and get the flushing in motion. I try to see this part as a challenge. One can never get too much exercise.

2. Once the flushing has started, the complete tank contents will empty into the bowl and drown my modest number one in insane amounts of unnecessarily wasted drinking water. This part never fails to piss me off, no matter how thick the Kevlar.

I am frequently tempted to not flush at all, especially if the culprit isn’t me but my little monster with his *wee* bladder. But then I figure that I wouldn’t like that very much if I was the next person to use this particular cubby hole. So I flush. And try not to scream.


We had a toilet like that in the early 70ies. Sooo last millennium! (Image: Wikipedia)

True, we are on an island here which, by all accounts, is haunted by copious amounts of precipitation. That’s actually a myth. As a matter of fact, East Anglia, which is the part of the country I live in, gets less annual rainfall than my home town Berlin which itself lies in one of the driest areas in Germany.

So why on earth are you insisting on using flushing mechanisms like in the times of the invention of WCs?!

Where I come from, it has been the standard for decades to equip toilets with start/stop devices. Depending on the degree of soiling you just push the stop button or tip the rocker switch back into its original position as soon as the bowl is clean. Easy.


German flushing systems rock! (Image: Wikipedia)





I have never seen this logical and simple solution anywhere in the UK. That frankly baffles me.

Granted, once in a while I come across a rather modern cistern here with a dual flush system. These will allow you to choose between two different flush volumes. If you’re lucky, the right amount for your needs is among them.


Thankfully, the loos in our house are fitted with this nifty system. Otherwise I would probably just stop eating and drinking altogether.

I mean, you don’t have to be a quantum physicist to figure out that even in a normal household, with East Anglian water prices, the installation of a water-wise flushing mechanism is an investment that pays off before you can say “economic crisis”. Seeing how much more often public conveniences are used compared to my humble home, upgrading them might just *pan* out nicely from a financial point of view.


Now, please don’t get me started on the environmental aspect of wasting water!


12 thoughts on “Just flush it down the drain!

  1. This is a good one, Sandra! American toilets are as bad as the British ones, probably worse in most places.It is becoming “fashionable” to have nifty dual flush johns and supposedly all newer models are “water savers” but they all use waaaay more water than necessary. My mom’s solution to this in her own home was to simply not flush until the bowl was either brilliant yellow or, well…brown. I’ve been known to skip a few flushes in my own home. I’m not rich enough to afford one of the “fashionable” sort. And believe it or not, it’s cheap to waste water here, even though my town is in a semi-arrid region.

    Americans are the worst users and abusers of resources, I’m sad to confess.

    • It’s funny, Linda, how being a German seems to have ‘spoilt’ me in terms of environmental awareness. Brits (and Americans) do lag behind somewhat in most areas of environmental conservation such as recycling, alternative energies and wasting of resources. I am glad though that there are people like you and other friends of mine who do care.
      As to the flushing question, I do get into trouble with my husband for not flushing. I mostly do it at night when I don’t want to disturb anyone with the noise, and because I get away with it, hehe. Oh, and I don’t flush the little monster’s wees either – yet. Number twos do get flushed of course.
      Thankfully, we finally got our new dual flushs installed, and the smaller volume seems to be about two litres – perfect for the little business. The old ones had to be replaced because they were leaking, and you wouldn’t believe how much our water consumption has decreased since. Over here, that means real money! And a happy me.

  2. You forgot to mention how much water must be used to wash all of the germs from the handle off. You can’t have a normal handwash after that. No, you will probably have to scrub for 20 minutes to keep from being killed by someone else’s pee germs.

    If you think these toilets are obnoxious, there are some urinals you should see here in Kansas City. At one of the stadiums, it is a big trough sized urinal that constantly has water flowing through it. It must be pumping thousands of gallons per game. Ugh.

    • Nah, thankfully I’m not germophobic, too much backpacking in my days, I guess. Just angry about stupidity. Wow, I would probably go and rip these urinals right out of the wall! Men, count yourselves lucky I don’t usually frequent men’s johns.

    • Why thank you, Nathan, you are too kind! I turn my back for two days and this is what I get… Sheesh! I guess I should say thank you.
      But seriously, I am immensely flattered, and since it is my first award, ever, I shall hold it in great regard! Together with its hilarious conferrer. Thanks, Nate.

  3. Different styles of bathrooms are one of the most interesting parts of traveling, I do believe. I’ve seen some truly awful and terrifying things, most notably the squatty potties, or the turkish toilets in the Middle East. The only benefit is that you don’t have to touch anything.

    • Oh, yeah, I am with you there. The thing is that in a lot of these places with extra-yucky loos you have to wear long skirts – you get the picture.
      Plus, when it comes to bathroom designs I have more peeves than just the toilet flush thingy. I hate the British two-tap basins. With a passion! Such an idiocy and possibly even worth another post in the future. Stay tuned and thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  4. I don’t understand toilet design either, but it’s not just in the UK that they’re crap (pun intended). The colloquialism ‘bog’ is often more appropriate… as for the amounts of water needed to flush them, it’s quite ridiculous.

    Glad the German ones are better, but I could see problems with those too… 😉

    • Yeah, there are definitely some shitty toilet designs out there. And yes, the German ones have their issues, too. But they are the best I know of, and I frankly don’t get why elsewhere less ideal solutions (how is that for a euphemism?) still abound, as if sustainable use of resources was invented 5 minutes ago. Thanks for your support, Val.

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