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In Post-Soviet Russia, Toilet Uses You: Сехтой в России, Part 1

Squatty potties decided the Cold War. Khrushchev didn’t come to an agreement with Kennedy because he wanted to avoid a nuclear apocalypse; he phoned in the Cuban Missile Crisis in because he really didn’t want to negotiate with JFK while using one of the Politburo’s standing-room-only toilets. Gorbachev didn’t tear down the wall and end the Communist era because Reagan said so; he simply was tired of taking a shit standing up.

I should be honest here. I’m really enjoying my time in Russia, and for the most part every aspect of my stay has been pleasant and hospitable. But if we judge countries based on their universities’ toilets and go by the old "1st-2nd-3rd world” rating system, then Russia places somewhere between 3rd world and I-can’t-believe-the-UN-recognizes-this-place. Yes, I know that by definition Russia is 2nd world. But you can’t expect me to abort a Taco Bell food baby into a hole in the floor of one of your most prominent international universities, in one of your largest cities, and then rate you as “having only slightly less efficient washing machines than the United States”.[1]  It’s just not going to happen. There could be Japanese-style bidets that play Hello Kitty when you flush, only one building away from the University, but if I have to defecate in an indoor ditch, then we’re gonna have some problems.[2]

At one point in time, I wanted to write out a comprehensive users’ guide to the many bathrooms of Northwestern University. The reason was simple—I felt people needed to know where they could comfortably drop a deuce between classes. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as useful as the “10 mistakes you will make” Freshman Guide. But I would’ve ranked the bathrooms based on cleanliness and traffic, given approximate distances, and offered what nuggets of advice I had. At the end of the day, I think it could’ve helped some people.

That whole idea feels so moot now, because every toilet at NU is a throne of solid gold compared to this. If I want to take a dump at school this summer, I have to bring my own toilet paper, find a clean spot on the wall to steady myself (there are none), and pray I don’t pee on myself in the process, which was already difficult enough sitting down. You see (literally, you can see, look at that fucking picture of that fucking toilet) the literal shit I have to deal with.

Maybe the toilets at this university were designed this way to keep students from ditching class to go play the Soviet equivalent of Jetpack Joyride (Go-go Gagarin?) on their phones for 20 minutes. Somehow I doubt that, but I don’t remember a time when smartphones didn’t exist so I’ll go with it. Whatever the reason, no one loiters in the bathroom in Russia. Russian schools have NEVER required a bathroom pass. It’s just not a thing.

I pray I will never have to use this toilet. I bought toilet paper to carry around, just in case, but if I never open the package I will still consider it a sound investment.

Oh, and good luck feeling clean after using a Russian university bathroom. There’s no hand soap either.

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The opinions expressed in this article are purely my own and do not reflect those of the United States Department of State or any of its affiliates. And there ARE perfectly normal bathrooms in Russia too, though the toilet paper generally leaves something to be desired.

 [1] And I’m pretty sure there’s no Taco Bell in Russia either, but some might say that’s a good thing.

[2]I think it’s important to note that I’ve seen squatty potties in the good old US of A, and that indoor ditches are a thing at home too. And there ARE normal toilets in Russia, just not where I need them most.

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