There are some people who collect shot glasses wherever they travel and some people who collect souvenirs such as spoons, or postcards, or magnets. I am no different from any of those people, only instead of bringing back your standard knick knack, I collect toilets. Or more specifically, I make sure to take a photograph of a toilet whenever I travel to someplace new.
It started out as a joke. Not to age myself too much, but I didn’t always have a digital camera (I certainly didn’t always have one embedded in my phone). Back in those dark ages, you had to take film to a drug store or photo shop and pay for it to be developed only to find out you had wasted at least three shots. So when we purchased our first digital camera it was as if we were suddenly able to print our own money (something I strongly recommend you not do). The luxury of such wastefulness went to our heads.
Lamont would jump out at random passerbys and shout, “you’re a star!” as he took five to ten rapid fire shots like some sort of inexperienced paparazzi with really, really bad intel (not everyone was quite as amused as we were.) Our hotel rooms were another victim. Each was treated like a potential cover story for Better Homes and Gardens or a featured episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (or Cribs for the younger crowd), except we were budget travels back then (and now) and quickly would run out of square footage to photograph. The toilet shot gradually transitioned from a series regular to a starring character.
As we started collecting the shots, we noticed that each had its own subtle difference. The water spiraled down the drain in the opposite direction than I was used to in Australia. It was also the first toilet I had ever seen with a separate #1 and #2 flush button for water conservation. The porcelain hole in the ground stopped me in my tracks in China. Some were oval, others square and the operating mechanism differed in dozens of ways as well (I may have accidentally set off an alarm in Ireland thinking the cord hanging beside the tank meant that it was a pull to flush when in reality it was for a handicap assist – whoopsy!). The sheer amount of variation in the sanitation world is rather amazing when you actually start to pay attention to it.
At yet, no matter where we go or what shape or form the toilet takes, it usually still works just about the same (excepting of course the times we have stayed in a truly ‘budget’ location).
There are a number of places I still need to visit before I deem my collection complete. For example, visiting Africa and South America remain on my bucket list. I’d like to visit Antarctica too, although I suspect I will have to settle for a photograph of a cruise ship toilet as we pass through those icy waters. When I do, I will photoshop the name of the place onto the photo somewhere, then frame the image, and hang it among my favorites on my bathroom wall.
While it may not be the most polite conversation, the wall is definitely a conversation starter and one that I am glad to have whenever a new guest comes over. After all, the frames on the wall are a constant reminder that no matter how much we might differ, there is always at least one thing we all have in common.