First, a thousand apologies to John Acuff of Stuff Christians Like and Christian Lander of Stuff White People Like. Sorry I ganked your ideas. (This must be what sloppy seconds feels like, but worse, because it’s thirds.)
Inevitably, we have the same conversation with all of our first time house guests. This scenario is played out all over the world in missionary homes, everyday. It’s the one where we have to explain that, yes, the rumors are true, you cannot flush your used toilet paper in _______ (insert country here). There are a whole slew of places that lack the plumbing and infrastructure to whisk away your dirty ditties, and it’s our job, as your missionaries, to explain it and enforce it.
Now, if you are anything like our guests, you’re experiencing one of two things right now. You are either totally cool with that information, shrugging your shoulders, like, ‘okay, no biggie’ or you are completely disgusted and overwhelmed by the single question running through your mind – If you can’t flush it, what do you do with it?
Well…you throw it away.
Yes, like in the garbage can.
Yes, where other people might see it.
No, it doesn’t stink.
No, we don’t put it in ziplock sandwich baggies.
No, we aren’t grossed out.
Yes, we do empty the bathroom garbage cans.
No. Not every time.
And then we explain, for emphasis, that it’s kind of imperative that you do not flush anything that wasn’t created by (or possibly rejected by) your digestive system. We don’t say it outright – but we might imply that if you flush a wad of paper (or a neat, efficient fold – if that’s your thing), Costa Rica will explode, triggering Armageddon and the end of humanity as we know it. So, just, be careful.
And it’s true, too.
I mean, the part about how we don’t flush our paper because our pipes can’t handle it. So it’s not like we’re making this stuff up to make your cross-cultural experience more uncomfortable. This is how we live. It’s what we do… er.. don’t do.
And we really, really appreciate how seriously our guests take this request.
We had one couple that, straight up, couldn’t handle the thought of potentially seeing each others fecal remnants. So they asked for a supply of plastic grocery sacks, which they used to immediately dispose of their own stuff. The secrecy and speed with which they made trips to the outside garbage can might have made you think that were taking turns strangling puppies and getting rid of the evidence. But as odd as that may seem, it’s nothing compared to the surprisingly frequent confessions we receive regarding the “fishing” of used TP out of the toilet. Not even kidding. Some people, upon realizing that they’ve accidentally made the drop, see fit to immediately pluck the paper out of the miry depths, lest flushing it actually blow up Costa Rica.
Can you imagine?!…fishing it out?!
You would be amazed at how often I have heard this confession. Amazed. And every time, I think the same thing; 1) Ew,ew,ew! Why are they saying this out loud?! This is the kind of secret that should die with someone!, and 2) This is a remarkably good person. Like, the kind of person that does the right thing even when nobodies watching, and at great personal expense.
I have my own confession to make: I occasionally flush my toilet paper. I just forget, and down it goes. It doesn’t even phase me. Never has.
It may not seem like that big of a deal, but there’s such a glaring difference between me and the people that fish it out. I find myself so far from that kind of selflessness that it’s embarrassing . Ya know? Like, the kind of selflessness that says I’m gonna do something super oogy because it’s what’s best for this home and this country. And I’m left wondering, as always, how it is that I’m the missionary and they’re the guest, when I have so much to learn, and they have so much to teach…
So, I was gonna ask if you’re a wadder or a folder… and then I was like, Why on God’s green earth would I ever want to know that?!?!