Wednesday, January 24, 2018

toilet woes

One of the problems with working at a hagweon (a Korean cram school for students aged elementary to high school) is that you have to share your restroom space with students, and many students (well, many adult Koreans as well*) have no sense of civic duty toward their fellow citizens, so they have no problem leaving the toilet cubicle a royal mess for the next person to deal with.

Two cases in point. First: a couple weeks ago, I walked into my usual cubicle in the men's room and was immediately smashed in the face by a sickening fecal odor. I couldn't tell, at first, whether the odor was merely ambient, or whether it was coming specifically from my cubicle... but the moment I raised the toilet lid, the question answered itself. Some kid had smeared his feces all over the toilet seat. Whether he'd used his hands to do this or had just wiped his asshole all over the toilet seat during or just after his shit, I have no clue. All I saw was a toilet seat covered in brown. Being who I am—i.e., the kind of guy who, when he sees a problem, feels the problem has become his problem—I marched back to the office, grabbed some cleaning supplies (a roll of paper towels, some spray cleaner, and a plastic bottle of disinfectant wipes), and went back to the toilet. I locked myself into the cubicle, reopened the toilet lid, that gateway to horror, and began cleaning. Some kid was in the stall next to mine. In Korean, he started talking to me, obviously thinking I was a classmate or friend of his. "Hey," he said, giggling. "You go in there? Don't go in there, man!" Obviously, he knew what had happened, even if he didn't know who had done the ugly deed. I sprayed, wiped, and tossed away sheet after sheet of my paper towels. Slowly but surely, the toilet became its old, white self again. I gave the whole thing a once-over with the disinfectant wipes, then felt guilty when I finally sat on the toilet to take my own shit. Unlike the mystery vandal, though, I somehow managed to suppress the urge to wipe my feces-pumping anus all over the toilet.

Second: the very next day, my regular cubicle was backed up thanks to there being an enormous pile of bloody toilet paper in the porcelain bowl. The effect was positively menstrual. I had to wonder what sort of spectacular bleeding had prompted the use of this much blood-soaked toilet paper. Unlike the previous day, I didn't play the hero and clean the mess up, primarily because I had already seen the janitor on his way over to the men's room, as if he knew about the problem. I simply switched to a different cubicle to do my business. An hour later, and the problem had been resolved. (I've sometimes heard the old guy cursing at the kids under his breath while he cleans these messes up. I'd love to catch these little fuckers in flagrante and exact some vigilante justice on them.)

Students have no sense of civic duty. I'm still trying to create a mental profile of the kid who had smeared his shit so thoroughly all over the toilet. What the fuck had he been thinking? Was he angry? Had this act been fun for him? How on Earth did he do the deed and then get away without getting shit all over himself? He was either on his way home after class or on his way to class. Either way, he'd have encountered friends who would have immediately picked up on any shit on his clothing. The mind boggles. Same goes for Mr. Tampon Mountain: what the hell had he been thinking? Why hadn't he dumped his pile of soaked toilet paper into the trash can right next to the toilet? Why did he have to pick an action that would be the most inconvenient to others using the facility after him? I'm pretty sure the answer to these questions involves some toxic combination of psychosis and youthful stupidity.

These are two major examples of inconsideration in the men's room, but minor examples abound, the most notorious of which I've come to call the "assprint." Think: fingerprint, but made by an anus. Yes: every now and then, I'll walk into my regular cubicle and be greeted by the unwelcome sight of an ever-so-slightly tan spot on the toilet seat, right at the location where one's ass crack would normally be. This tan spot comes courtesy of someone's poorly aimed asshole: a desperate student bursts into the cubicle, frantically works his pants off, then sits down hastily, overshooting the large, impossible-to-overshoot hole and smooshing his filthy asshole against the plastic seat, thereby leaving a fecal print for the next user of the cubicle to appreciate. I encounter this particular problem several times a week; the above two nightmares have happened to me only once each thus far.

The kids who come into the restroom do other creepy, disturbing things. Some kids come in alone and just... stand there, loitering, staring into their cell phones, possibly playing games or texting. Some kids barge into the restroom in noisy groups, shouting and cursing gleefully, tussling and even bumping up against my cubicle's door while I'm inside trying to enjoy a blissful discharge. In the States, the Unwritten Man Code is that, if someone you know comes into the restroom while you're doing your business, you say nothing. No eye contact, no acknowledgment of each other's presence. Silence. This goes double when it's a guy you don't know. I don't know what Man Code is in operation in Korea, but it appears there is none: Korean guys are just like American girls in their urge to go to the bathroom in chatty flocks. It's awkward, but I'm often greeted by fellow male Korean staffers when I'm washing my hands. I usually offer a curt nod or grunt in return, not being ready to engage in conversation. But the adults normally stop there, with just a greeting; the kids, with their creepy loitering and obnoxious group behavior, are a nightmare.

I'm home sick today, so I thought I'd toss these thoughts off while I could still smell them.

*Yes, to be fair, you can find idiots like this in other countries, too. This is often the argument used by conservatives when discussing public versus private stewardship: when something is managed by the public, it normally ends up dirtier because users have no sense of personal responsibility for the thing being used, e.g., a public restroom. Compare the relative cleanliness of the typical suburban home's bathroom with that of a public restroom, and you can readily see the difference between private versus public stewardship of something. People care for a thing when they have a personal stake in it.


John Mac said...

One of your shittier posts to be sure.

Charles said...

You're still sick, man? You sure you don't need to go to the hospital or something?

Kevin Kim said...


I still think like an American when it comes to going to the hospital. I'll go if I have a broken arm, or if I'm covered in giant blisters, or if I can't breathe.

In all seriousness, I feel a lot better today. Am back at work. Still coughing, but symptoms seem subdued. I think I'm well beyond the contagious phase of whatever this is; it's just a matter of time, now. Luckily, I lost my sense of taste for only one day; losing my taste is a depressing experience.