I spent the last three days talking to dozens of people about pooping.
The ease with which I can discuss the act of defecation is somewhat of a paradox — because I am exceedingly bathroom shy. Silent office restrooms with stall doors that end a foot and a half off the ground are my worst enemy, while the best workspace toilet experience I’ve ever had was, oddly, at a WeWork, where the barriers were floor to ceiling, there was always music playing, and each stall came equipped with its own bottle of air freshener spray.
Yet such restrooms are rare. In the United States, at least, we’re far more likely to encounter cramped, quiet bathrooms with terrible two-ply toilet paper and dribble on the seat. Even at home, where our bathrooms are typically more comfortable than what you’ll find at the mall or an office building, we’re limited to a basic setup: a plain porcelain bowl, with maybe two flush settings, beside a roll of whatever toilet paper you’re willing to invest in. God help you if you run out.
“Imagine a world where you only need to wipe once”
But it doesn’t have to be this way! All over the world, restrooms are blessed with more humane configurations. In some places, they come equipped with hoses so the user can more easily cleanse themselves after use. In others, such as France, bathrooms have bidets which perform the same function as the hose, only hands-free. And in some regions of Asia, most notably Japan, high-tech toilets with sound effects, heated seats, several bidet functions, and air dryers are as ubiquitous as automatic faucets, as Jane, a New York-based freelance calligrapher who lived in the Kagawa region of Japan for four years and requested that only her first name be used, told me.
“Imagine a world where you only need to wipe once, and that’s to take care of the excess water,” she says. “Where you’re not shocked in the morning by cold porcelain. Where you can let your bowels howl in public and face your co-workers at the sink because the bathroom is filled with sounds of artificial flushing (or whatever cute melody that given toilet is programmed to…