Quote for the Day: Milan Kundera on toilets

Toilets in modern water closets rise up from the floor like water lilies. The architect does all he can to make the body forget how paltry it is, and to make man ignore what happens to his intestinal wastes after the water from the tank flushes them down the drain. Even though the sewer pipelines reach far into our houses with their tentacles, they are carefully hidden from view, and we are happily ignorant of the invisible Venice of shit underlying our bathrooms, bedrooms, dance halls, and parliaments.

– Tereza in The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Wow. There are at least five separate metaphors in that paragraph. All mixed together and churning around – like toilet water (just to pull a metaphor out of my – somewhere).

Tereza goes on to complain that the toilet in her Prague flat does not look like a water lily, but instead looks “like what it [is]: the enlarged end of a sewer pipe.” Poor Tereza. I’ve seen some toilets like that before, including the one that was (until recently) in my home.

I recently installed a new toilet in my home (pictured below). That project lasted several days and involved removing and replacing as well (because the one I discovered beneath the toilet was a corroded 1930’s original) something called a flange (a word I know only because I pried the disgusting piece off, took it to Southerlands and asked someone there, “WTF is this?). So, yes, I am very well acquainted with the fact that a toilet is essentially the decorative end-piece of a sewer pipe, an orifice. But I flatter myself (beating my chest; “I installed toilet!”) that the water lily I planted in our restroom looks rather domestic and friendly. It even has an environmentalist feature: a half-flush button for lighter jobs. My toilet cares.

The white, Kunderan water lily I planted in our restroom. Yeah, I laid that tile, too.

*Optional footnote about one unusual Bourbon Street nightclub restroom I visited while recently in New Orleans

While paying my solemn reverences to the great god, Dionysus, I visited a few nightclub restrooms in New Orleans. Most were filthy, of course; toilets as much unlike water lilies as possible. But one was unusual.

A man was standing by the door and I first thought I was second in line. Then I realized that the restroom had its own bouncer: he was a big, black man with a no-nonsense attitude. No cover charge, but he stood inside the door while I used the only toilet in the room. After I flushed the toilet (which like the rest of the room appeared spotless), the bouncer squirted soap into my hands and twisted the nozzle on the sink for me. “Scrub and rinse,” he said. This is did, and I’ve never felt more like a child. I did intend to wash my hands.

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