I visited my daughter the other night. Her apartment is outfitted with a dual flush toilet. These are an originally Australian invention in which the user has a choice between what amounts to a half-flush or a full flush, depending on the nature and quantity of the contents of the bowl. The goal is, of course, to use only the flushing power needed, thereby conserving water. One has only to push one of two buttons on the top of the tank. There is even a small graphic on the buttons to help in proper selection. I visited Australia some years back so was at least familiar enough with them to understand the workings, though this was the first time I had used one in the USA. I was grateful I had some experience from which to draw. I could only shudder thinking what it would have been like to stick my head out of the bathroom door and yell, “Hey Honey, what’s with the two buttons on your toilet ?” Comments like that are almost guaranteed to get your kids thinking they may need to start looking for a nice assisted living facility for you.
Up until then I hadn’t given toilets much thought. As long as there is a clean one reasonably nearby when I need one, I’m happy. I will, however, reluctantly confess I did snicker when someone told me the toilet was invented by a guy named Crapper, though I never bothered to find out whether that was true or not. Bottom line – a toilet is a toilet and no one worries about theirs unless it becomes clogged, at which point it demands your full attention.
But this choice of flushes really got me thinking, so I stood there considering my options. My first inclination was to simply give the toilet a full flush, wash my hands and get on with whatever I was doing. I suppose that is a reflection of my age and having an “old-school” attitude about toilets. The dual-flush toilet was not around when I was growing up. But upon further reflection I thought perhaps I should go for the half-flush, it just seemed the more responsible and “green” choice. But what if a half-flush ended up being insufficient for the task at hand, so to speak? What if I had to flush a second time? And what if the two half-flushes used up more water than a single full flush? Or what if I opted for the full flush, knowing it was more than was needed? Would I later feel guilty for having wasted water? Would I then feel compelled to perform an act of penance, like 3 days of half-flushes only, no matter what?
This is also not the kind of thing you can ask others about. “So, hey, Jim, do you find the half-flush is sufficient to meet most of your bathroom needs?” This is not going to happen. And there are no posted guidelines. It would be nice if there were some sort of written assistance, or even a website to visit (not right at that moment of course, but later, when there is time to seek more information on flushing etiquette). Perhaps a little booklet left in the bathroom, right next to “Jokes For The John” , on top of the October, 1996 National Geographic and the March, 2006 Reader’s Digest. It shouldn’t be too technical or folks like me will be even more intimidated. Let’s face it, if the booklet is called “Flush vs. Half-Flush: A Comparative Analysis,” I’m going opt for the National Geographic. But if it has a happy, Dr. Seuss sort of cover with a title like, “Half Flush, Whole Flush, Tank Flush, Bowl Flush” it might help make the experience a little more user-friendly.
Fortunately the flushing choice dilemma has, in large, been alleviated by government regulation. We are now required, by law, to purchase so called “low flow” toilets. These amount to toilets with a half-flush-only mechanism, which is a source of frustration in situations that clearly call for a full flush. And in commercial establishments I am now seeing more non-flush bathroom fixtures. It really alleviates the stress of worrying about water use or which button to push. It also gives the restroom facility that nostalgic “Greyhound Bus Station” aroma.
All this does lead one to try and imagine what the next step in bathroom evolution will be. Perhaps the bathroom will go the way of the phone booth. Perhaps the government will make certain bodily functions illegal, eliminating (pun intended) the need for bathrooms all together. Whatever the brave new world before us I’m sure our government will continue to make wise and appropriate choices on our behalf. And, since I cannot even comfortably choose between two flushing options I welcome federal guidelines in this area. I’m sure you agree.