Aug 14, 2015 | | Say something

use bin not toilet


Warning: These thoughts may be unpleasantly graphic


Almost every South American hostel I’ve been in has signs like the one above. Don’t put toilet paper in the toilet bowl, put it in the bin. Why no hostel believes their plumbing is capable of handling toilet paper, I do not know, but they all politely ask not to test it.


Unfortunately for them, it’s not such a practical request. Most of us have spent years putting used toilet paper in the bowl after we’ve finished with it. It’s not so easy to unlearn the habit. And there is little motivation to do so. Let’s say I manage to catch myself after a thorough wipe, I’m forced into a tough decision. Do I put the soiled paper in the bin, where it will be left for hours and make the room even more unappealing. Or do I just ignore the sign and do what I assume most of the other hostel guests are doing. I know they’re doing it because you don’t often see shitty toilet paper in the bin, and this is in places with a lot of guests. If everyone honoured these requests you would see every kind of bodily fluid in that bin.


But people prefer to hide these things. No-one wants the smell to linger, so they flush. People forget it’s meant for the bin, so they flush. Masturbators don’t want to leave behind any evidence, so they flush. Most often the toilet paper you see in the bin is either pretty clean looking, or bloody. I guess girls get used to not flushing tampons and so it’s an easier function for periods. And for the most part, no hostel has any problems with the vast amount of toilet paper flushed down into their pipes.


In Medellin however, I got to witness firsthand what a system incapable of handling toilet paper does. It’s not a pretty sight, water flushing back into the bowl along with fecal matter, rising ever-closer to the lid as you pray it doesn’t flood. Every single one of the toilets in my Medellin hostel was out of order for at least one day, thankfully always at different times.


I still flushed the toilet paper though, it’s hard to undo years of muscle memory training, even when you’re motivated.


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