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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

As if I needed more proof that I'm not as smart as I like to think I am.

Here's a little drawing of my bathroom.



The black up top is a ceramic counter that runs along the back wall; the dark blue ball is the sink; the brown blob is the toilet; the red block is the door; and the light blue ball is where the tap and shower head are installed.

As is typical of Korean bathrooms, there's nowhere to put a little cloth mat, since there's no real distinction between places that should be wet and places that shouldn't. It takes a certain amount of skill to ensure that you don't soak the TP (mounted on the wall between the door and the loo) and your appliances when you shower. The problem is by no means insurmountable, and is even accompanied by certain benefits (no worries about dripping in the ought-to-be-dry zones, no sudden freezing after opening the shower curtain, no stinky, moldy bath mats). However some foreigners prefer to try to restore some order to the bathroom by hanging up a curtain. When doing so, you've got two choices.

In a bathroom like mine, the short-axis curtain allows the toilet to be used when someone else is in the shower:



On the other hand, the long axis curtain keeps water away from the sink and toilet, reducing griming and eliminating the need to wipe things down quite so often:




I originally had the former setup, but due to an inebriated bathroom scuffle in the aftermath of the Idli Party, the curtain came down and was sloppily reinstated in the lower manner. At first I thought it a little ridiculous, but I soon came to appreciate it. In addition to the cleanliness benefits, it prevents you from having to stare at yourself in the mirror for the duration of your shower-and-dry-off time every morning.*

The downside is, it cuts your showering space about in half. For the last 3 months, I've been showering with my back scraping up on the plastic sheet, or getting sprayed directly in the face, or standing up on my tippy-toes to get a nice full blast to the armpits**.




If you nodded your head just then, well, sorry to say it, but you are a nincompoop! I don't know how it has possibly escaped me until now, but there's a solution to this problem that's free, instantaneous, easy, low-tech (actually, no-additional-tech), and completely obvious. Can you think of it?




?




?




?






?





The answer is:




Turn the shower head and take a step sideways!



Look how brilliantly the hypotenutal shower stance solves all your morning hygiene problems! Each inch you move to the side provides you with (CHALLENGE: PROVIDE ME WITH THIS NUMBER, OR AT LEAST THE FORMULA) X inches of extra space in which to shower. I am pretty sure that there's an exponent in the works, so it's a good deal!

According to my calculations, this post is about 98% random and worthless, but the remaining 2% reveals something interesting. I think it actually demonstrates how deeply we can become stuck in certain patterns of thought, how much we accept certain things as given, even when the solution lies right in front of our eyes (or beside to our dripping posteriors). Whence the assumption, despite overwhelming evidence, that the 90 degree angle, perfectly perpendicular to the wall, was the best one? I must have take the shower head out of its socked and returned it there at least four or five times a day for three months, and yet it never even occurred to me that less symmetry might do me some good. What was it that prevented me from even considering stepping out of line?

How often do we put up with little, slightly annoying things just because we think that either there's no solution or that it's out of reach? How often is our ability to think of solutions cut off by our assumption that there's some weight behind or reason or justification for the status quo?

It may be a stretch, but it seems to me like there's a parallel here between these tiny little inconveniences that we could easily deal with, but don't, and larger social wrongs that we could also play a part in righting, if only we weren't so used to stomaching stuff we're fed up with. Of course, for me, vegetarianism comes to mind first. Many may be unaware of the environmental effects of modern meat production, but my guess is that very few are unaware of, or, if they would let themselves admit it, unsympathetic to the plight of the creatures involved. But, we accept the act of eating meat as a necessary evil; we've always done it, and others always do it, and so, assuming it's normal, or justifiable, or whatever, we assume that fixing the problem is harder than it really is. To be honest, though, with just a bit of dedication, it's not very hard to make the change. Reduce one meat, give one up, switch one for beans, switch one for tofu, and try a new restaurant or dish, and you're probably 90% of the way there.

I have much less experience dealing with other forms of stepping out of line, unless you count turning off the TV, foregoing shopping and most other forms of consumption, and doing my utmost to walk and bike everywhere within reason, so I don't think I have any more specific advice to offer. Just...allow yourself to acknowledge when something is wrong. Chances are, fixing dealing with it will be easier, and perhaps more satisfying, than you think.

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*It's not that I think my body is particularly atrocious, but that I've been fortunate enough to spend about 3 months not looking at mirrors in Sadhana and 10 days at a time during Vipassana sessions, and it's incredible how far it goes in helping you to act naturally, feel comfortable, and worry less about how other people perceive your appearance.

**I first used the word "armpit" in conversation in Korean last night, discussing traveling in India and the different scents one may encounter. (Linguistic milestone).

6 comments:

Andy said...

Without dimensions, any formula I provided would be too difficult for the average reader to comprehend.
That said, I really enjoyed the parallel you paint between the room you shit in and the well-being of the entire planet. Well done.

Mike said...

You are well on the path to Monism, my child.

Also, shit is kind of a big deal. Honest.

AZ said...

Excellent use of Microsoft Paint!

Dave said...

It may very well be the biggest deal.

Wouldn't your angled solution just blast a lot of water under the door? Or is there a rubberized seal? These are the kinds of details we need to know.

Not to overly complicate matters, but I feel like there are a couple other--and potentially superior--options:

1) In the longitudinal solution, simply scoot the rod as close to the "black" counter as possible. You could even cut it shorter so it goes above the toilet, as I feel like the main thing your trying to accomplish is keep your TP and toiletries dry.

2) Buy one of these bad boys -- or something similar.

SandfordWrites said...

Point taken. I think our heads can get stuck into patterns when we ignore our hearts. I'm serious. We can so easily get stuck on what can and can't be done based on what we know, but with a little humility and trial and error there are alternatives to what we think are our only options.

I might have repeated your point but if so then we are on the level.

When it comes to meat I think there is another option to opt out of modern meat production than vegetarianism and I think that's often missed- eating pasture fed and ethically raised animals.

It's easy for any of us who care to miss an aspect of the bigger picture and that's why it's good when everyone can talk openly and not let dietary religions over-ride reality. This includes aspects of what I've said, because I'm learning but I don't know everything nor will I ever.

Mike said...

Anna: I tried to do the pictures with the Linux paint program, but failed. Sometimes you have to give up on your ideology and say: Thank God for Microsoft.

David: Korean interior designers are way ahead of you. The floor of the bathroom is about two inches lower than the floor of the adjacent room, so that there's no way for any standing water to leak out. (Of course, this makes toe-stubbings a bit more frequent,)

Your pole-shifting solution is interesting, but would only grant me about six inches of extra space, and would leave the room a little asymmetrical. Cutting the curtain is also an intriguing suggestion, though I'm afraid I'd wind up with a gap just big enough to allow me to see the reflection of my ass.

As for buying a better one: no way am I going to let problems with something that I didn't even purchase in the first place lead me to upgrade to something new. My goal is to approach zero-consumption!

Greg: You're right. I do see the possibility that allying myself with the hard-and-fast concept of vegetarianism could lead me to miss certain more nuanced ways of interacting with the earth. In particular, I go back and forth about whether or not I should be looking for and supporting sources of sustainable, low-cruelty meat.