Effective Toilets

One thing I love about the Europe in which I lived is the practicality of concepts and mentalities.  The main example of this which comes to mind right now is that of toilets.  Public toilets, specifically, I mean.

At my campus in Toulouse, France, was my first experience of the idea of one set of sinks for toilets of both genders.  There were the individual stalls, as in any US bathroom, though with doors and walls that closed off each stall more effectively from outsiders’ views.  However, each stall was labelled as for male or female users. Then, over to the side, was the countertop sink area.  Just one sink area for everyone to use.  It was practical, efficient, and sufficient.  It was odd, at first, walking into the same bathroom as the guys, and even talking with them while in line in the bathroom and at the sinks.  But I never felt uncomfortable, because I still got my own, private little space to do my private business.  The privacy part was kept even more private than the stalls in the US, where we have nonsense structures that require us to avert our eyes whenever we enter the bathroom, because we get that one-inch-wide view all along the length of either side of every stall door, and, whether we like it or not, leaves us knowledgeable of the color of everyone’s underwear.  (No joke here.  We totally have trained ourselves to look away as fast as possible, and also not to remember what we see, but it doesn’t change the fact that we totally see it and on a regular basis.)  (Also, the urinals were still kept for the men, the  private trash bins by the toilet were kept for the women’s stalls, and girls didn’t have to worry about guys urinating on the seats or floors around where we’re dropping our pants.)

When I was in Germany most recently, I was using the toilet in the airport just before my flight.  When I walked out of the stall to go to the sink (in the women’s bathroom), a male cleaner walked into the bathroom with an indifference nonchalance.  He walked to the trash bin and emptied it to his cart outside the bathroom, and refreshed the bag.  Then he swept the floor a bit and wiped down the sinks, checking the soap and paper towels.  Not one person flinched during this process.  No one was embarrassed.  But there were other women in the bathroom, coming and going as though all was well and normal.  And, for some reason, I was delighted and warmed at that fact.  I think I even giggled when I left the bathroom, because I was imagining how people back in the US might have responded (and, potentially, panicked like no other).  Again, just like in France, he wasn’t in the actual privacy portion of the bathroom, so it didn’t really matter so much that he was there.  He was only passing through – it wasn’t like he was hanging out in there all day or anything.  He cleaned up and got out, just as he probably did in the men’s restroom.  So what that he was a man?

In the US, our restrooms are shut down from use whenever someone of the opposite gender cleans them.  And that really sucks at times.  Really.  Because, sometimes, you’ve just got to go.

However, one restaurant in Houston gives me hope for our city (if not quite our country yet).  It has regular-looking entrances for the men’s and women’s restrooms, on opposite ends of this one wall.  Upon entering either of those doors, one will discover a beautiful wall of sinks between those two entrance doors.  That is, both doors lead to the same room of sinks.  From that room, continuing in the initial direction, there is a second door, which will lead into the separate-gendered toilet rooms (men’s and women’s).  And, in those, the individual stalls are like their own little rooms, with real privacy to handle one’s business.  (None of that eye-averting necessary.)  It’s wonderful.  I ate at this restaurant with my dad once, and he and I specifically left the restroom from the opposite doors – he went through the women’s and I through the men’s – so that we might surprise the person with us at dinner.  She didn’t notice, of course, but we had fun being rebellious in a way that didn’t actually matter.  😛

Anyway, I really like that kind of bathroom, and I really like the general mentality of efficiency I have found wherever I have lived (and visited) in Europe.

Post-a-day 2018

 

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the wrong side of the road…?

I have been three days riding my bike (bicycle) now, and I still am not fully accustomed to it.  A car was a reasonably easy adjustment, because the driver seat is on the opposite side of the car, making it significantly easier just to flip everything for the road.  I also have spent hours upon hours driving in the US, and only a handful of days doing it in Japan.  Bicycling, however, is a rather different story.

I spent a good number of days riding my bike part of the way to work at my last US job, and I used my bicycle for a good amount of my getting around town (combined with the local busses).  But that in no way adds up to how much I have driven in Houston.  In fact, I think it is quite likely that I actually spent more time riding my bike on the roads in Japan than I ever have in Houston.  I think I’ve spent more calendar days using a bicycle on the roads in the US – I’m saying “on the roads”, because I know I have spent more time and more calendar days using a bicycle in the US than in any other country, but not necessarily as an alternative to a car as a means of transportation – than in Japan, but the days I spend riding in Japan included a LOT of road time every time I went to and from work.

All that said, despite however terribly it may have been said, I have spent a lot of time riding my bicycle on the left side of the road, following traffic in Japan this past year.  This means that I kind of have a really strong habit of getting to the left side of the road whenever I ride.  I have consciously pushed to the right these past few days, but it has been tough.  Especially when there are no moving cars around, I really struggle.  I find myself already going to the left side, before it clicks that that’s the wrong side here.  (Hey, I’m glad it does click, though, and fast!)

As I approached a road with a huge median in it yesterday morning, and there were no visible moving cars on the nearer side of it, I suddenly discovered how much my instincts have been “messed with”, so to speak.  I truly had no idea which way to check for traffic, as I approached the road (I was on a path perpendicular to the road.).  Even though it seemed like no cars were around, I went ahead and stopped at the edge, because I wanted to figure this out.  After a handful of seconds, during which I get quite silly and out of place, a car came along on the far side of the road, the opposite side of the median from me.  It was coming from the right.  Unfortunately, that didn’t have anything click for me – there was no Aha! moment for me, and I was disappointed.  However, I am smart, and so I immediately deduced that cars must come from the left on the side by me, if they’re coming from the right on the far side of the road.  I was just a bit bummed that I was having to deduce, instead of just suddenly remembering and knowing.

On a handful of other occasions, – possibly two or three handfuls, actually – I have found myself heading to the left side of the bike trail or the road, but it is always under the same circumstances: I am alone, and I am turning.  So, if I keep that in mind, and just focus whenever I’m about to turn, I’ll be in good shape in no time.  (As if I haven’t been thinking this all week already…)

Anyway, just thought I’d share all of that, because it’s kind of fun (to me, anyway).

Post-a-day 2017

Worldwide Shipping

Tomorrow, my life is scheduled to alter.  A friend is coming over late morning, we’ll run a couple or few errands together, taking good advantage of her car’s being here, and then our plan is to pack up everything I no longer need for my daily life, but that I want to keep in my life once I have moved back to the US.  To me, it is a sort of marker for the official beginning of the end; an end to which I look forward with great enthusiasm.

There are certainly many, many…, and let’s throw in another many things and people that I will miss from here.  However, so much of my life here consists of my job, which I very much dislike as a whole, and my solo city and apartment, of which I am not a fan (I really dislike being solo in life.  I’m fine with a solo apartment, so long as I have regular interaction (like daily, often multiple times a day) with people I love and who love me.  That, however, is not at all the case in my life here.).  Therefore, I am greatly looking forward to the end of this bit of my life.

In an odd way, I have felt as though I have taken a year out of my life.  As opposed to this having been a year of my life, it feels like a year out of my life, as though we could hit pause and go on brief tangents in life.  (Perhaps it’s more like changing the channel briefly, always knowing that the real show is on the original channel.  Something like that.)

So, I find myself delighted to be packing up tomorrow, getting ready to move forward.  It allows me to let go of the material objects, as well as the concern of how to move them into the next part/s of my life (Think plane trips with insane amounts of baggage – this is about ten times worse than that.), and focus my attention and mental space on the people and world around me that I want to love as much as possible while I am here.  It has been difficult for me to love at times while being here, and that, in and of itself, has been a powerful lesson for me in my life – learning to love when all I want to do is throw a fit at how terrible and unloving a situation is to me.  I want to do what I can to love this world around me, while I have the chance, and I know that tomorrow is a good step in having that happen.

And I’m terrified.  In a wonderful way, of course.

 

Post-a-day 2017

 

Songs for Friends and Self

First off,

😀   Merry Christmas!   😀


Via the natural flow of thoughts in my head, I found myself singing a song that a friend and I wrote (to the tune of another song) as a goodbye present to another friend of ours a few years back.  This other friend was heading to the US for a semester abroad, and so we set up a sort of going away surprise in which everyone could participate.

It was Sylvia’s idea, the song.  She picked one of Gunnar’s favorite songs, and decided to write new words to it.  About an hour-ish before we were supposed to head out to meet up with other friends to practice the song, she had gotten only a few sentences into it, and so I ended up taking over and putting the bulk of it together.

We threw a thumbs up on it, and rushed off to rehearse with other friends.  At rehearsal, we changed a word or two to make things easier for folks, and organized our plan of action to get out the lyrics to everyone after Mass that evening (the going away party was taking place right after the young-ish adults Mass where we all went together).  The song ended up going beautifully and being a total hit – it was just as we’d hoped, and all was well as we sent our good friend on his way.

Now, I completely meant the words when I wrote them for our friend Gunnar.  However, a few weeks later, as I, myself, was leaving the country to go back to the US, the song suddenly sounded like something I had actually written for myself.  To this day, the song gets stuck in my head (although I have no recording of it, and have not since that month looked at the lyrics), and it, somehow, is always comforting – I miss living in Vienna terribly, but this song somehow makes everything okay how it is right now.  I guess God’s just good at making things work out that way.  🙂  I have this dual feeling that 1) if I move back to Vienna, I’ll never want to leave again, and 2) if I even visit Vienna, I’ll be utterly disappointed with how it compares to having lived there before and loving it so much then.  I think that, no matter what, I have to go back, though.  I’ll try a visit first – maybe next year for Christmas – and see how that goes, huh?  Sounds good to me.  🙂  Anyway…

Enjoy.       (To the tune of “Wherever You Will Go” by The Calling)

P.S.  BeFree is the name of the Mass we all attended, and which had brought most of us together as friends in Vienna


6. Jan 2013

VERSE 1

So lately, been wondering
Who will be there to take your place.
When you’re gone, we’ll need one
To play that music filled with grace.
If it really is God’s will,
Then we guess that you can go.
Just remember us back here
While you’re off in USA

CHORUS
If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien.
But God sends you elsewhere,
So take care, have fun, and BeFree!

VERSE 2

Hopefully, you’ll find out
The way to make it back someday.
Until then, God bless you
And help you all throughout your days.
If it really is God’s will,
Then, Columbia, here he is!
And we hope that, while you’re out there,
The Lord’s grace still flows from you.

CHORUS

If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien.
But God sends you elsewhere,
So take care, have fun, and BeFree!

BRIDGE

God give Gunnar your blessing.
Give him helping hands and friends.
Give him everything he needs!

CHORUS

If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien.
But God sends you elsewhere,
So take care, have fun, and BeFree

VERSE 3

You’re leaving.  We’ll miss you,
but all our lives will still go on.
In your heart, in your mind,
May God be with you all the time.
If it really is God’s will,
Then we guess that you can go.
Just remember us back here
While you’re off in USA

CHORUS

If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien
But God sends you elsewhere
So take care, have fun, and BeFree

If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien
But God sends you elsewhere
So take care, have fun, and BeeeeFreeeeee

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