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Sunday, July 19, 2009

An open letter to a pioneer

[a memo best enjoyed after breakfast]

Dear Pioneer,

I address you in this manner because I assume you must be an Israeli of long standing and rich history... a person who, at very least, spent his youth draining malarial swamps, fighting off marauding Arabs and dancing the Hora late into the night among the other brave and hardy pioneers of your generation. 

Although we have never met (that I know of), I assume these things about you because you clearly hark from an era when the infrastructure of the nascent State could not stand even the modest demands placed upon it by you and your fellow pioneers.  The few existing roads were of dirt... the electricity was intermittent, at best... and the plumbing (where it existed at all) could not handle toilet paper.

It is on this last, delicate subject that I must ask your indulgence.

You see, several times per week I am left to wonder whether it is out of habit or nostalgia that, even in this day of modern miracles and more-than-adequate plumbing, you continue to wipe away the remnants of your morning output, and then deposit the soiled paper in the wastepaper basket beside your porcelain perch, rather than committing it to a watery end like the rest of your, er, effluence. 

Who knows, it may be that you act thus out of old habit... or it may be that you are so amazed at the leaps in toilet tissue technology - with yesteryear's scratchy, non-absorbent crepe-paper but a vague memory to you and the other surviving remnants of your pioneering generations - that you just can't bear to let such a luxury go.  I don't know, and because I have never discovered you in the act, I have never had the opportunity to ask.

I admit that as a new immigrant, I am soft, spoiled, and completely undeserving to be an heir to your labors (in the grand sense, mind you... not of your daily output, as it were). 

Instead of foul swamps and unpaved roads, I arrived in the Jewish Homeland to find air-conditioned offices and finely paved highways.  Instead of having to build settlements by day, defend them by night and then dance the Hora with exhausted comrades well into the early hours of the morning, I arrived at my 'settlement' kitted out with a brand new washer/dryer, an enormous self-cleaning oven and a surround-sound home theater system that probably makes my elderly Israeli neighbors wonder if they are time traveling whenever I watch the History Channel or classic films like 'Exodus' and 'Cast a Giant Shadow'.

I apologize for the indirect and impersonal nature of this communication, but I know you only by habit, and sadly, not by name or face.  I recognize your comings and goings by the fragrant Rorschach tests you leave me to find when it comes time for my mid-morning constitutional... and I dearly wish we could exchange a word. 

I am, therefore, left to hope that this unaddressed missive finds you in continued good health, spirits and bodily functions (tfu tfu tfu)...  and that you will come to trust that the marvels of modern plumbing will be equal to the task of conveying the daily labors of your healthy appetites to a suitable resting place, far from whichever bathroom stall I decide to use.

I remain your patient, yet optimistic beneficiary and partner in Zion,

David (although you can call me treppenwitz)

Posted by David Bogner on July 19, 2009 | Permalink


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Maybe it's worth putting a note on the back of the door? I lived in a residential college in France which was mainly meant for Mexicans, who in general grow up learning to place the toilet paper in the bin and NOT in the toilet. A nice reminder was (usually) all that was necessary. On the flip side, when I was in Mexico I often wished there was a similar note on the door - it would have saved me doing the rather horrible 'retrieve and dispose of' mission!

Posted by: zemirah | Jul 19, 2009 2:23:28 PM

(telling you this will reveal that we have come and gone...and are feeling terribly guilty about all the people we did not contact during our trip) but there are still locations in the country where there are posted signs regarding the disposal of such waste products into the trash (rather than in the bowl) - that was QUITE the learning experience for our kids, and one habit that i was sure to address directly upon our return home! perhaps a copy of today's post placed artfully among the lavatory reading materials would do the trick? otherwise...maybe visit another floor after your morning coffee - it will mean extra steps as well!?

Posted by: Debbie | Jul 19, 2009 3:07:37 PM

You might like this site:


(not that your post was passive aggressive [rolls eyes])

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Jul 19, 2009 3:12:30 PM


Although it's worth noting that here in the States, where we have had decent plumbing far longer than you folks, many visitors to public facilities tend to forgo the entire flushing process altogether.

Perhaps these gentlemen (I can't speak for the ladies' facilities, never having visited them personally) hark back to the age of Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed. I have certainly seen some, er, deposits that were positively Bunyanesque.

I guess calling these folks pioneers is more polite than noting that they were born in a barn.

Posted by: psachya | Jul 19, 2009 3:47:36 PM

I have only one word to say.

Posted by: Marsha in Englewood | Jul 19, 2009 4:03:03 PM


Posted by: Max Power | Jul 19, 2009 4:08:54 PM


Posted by: Shalom, Cherry Hill, NJ | Jul 19, 2009 4:18:27 PM

We had one guy in our office (no idea who) who for some reason, felt it was below him to flush the toilet after doing what he came to do. After 2 weeks of this, a nastily worded sign was put up in each stall. It invited the person to a toilet flushing class, or to take a hike to another floor. Don't know which occurred, but the toilets were always flushed after that.

Still have a few people who refuse to flush the urinal. If it's the "other people touch this" factor, I wish they'd at least get some towel paper and then flush it. Ugh.

Posted by: JDMDad | Jul 19, 2009 4:57:19 PM

It's worth pointing out for your American readers that the issue here is the opposite of a lack of courtesy on behalf of Israelis, but rather an over-abundance of misguided courtesy. Many Israelis (in my experience mainly Arabs, actually) believe that throwing used toilet paper into the toilet will clog the pipes. They therefore deposit used toilet paper into a trash receptacle placed near the toilet, which can be a shocking site for westerners (ok... Americans).

Posted by: Avi | Jul 19, 2009 5:57:35 PM

Another confluence (if you will allow that word in this context), Trep. Behold, a similar public letter I wrote a few months back. Sadly, mine was not addressed to pioneers, so much as just people who didn't seem, to be familiar with actual, working plumbing:


Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jul 19, 2009 8:22:34 PM

I know you warned me, but I just don't think I'll ever be able to eat a peanut butter sandwich again.

At least until tomorrow.

Posted by: Baila | Jul 19, 2009 11:16:12 PM

Throwing used TP in the trash can next to the can is still common in Italy. The water pressure isn't high enough to handle more than is absolutely necessary.

Posted by: Karl Newman | Jul 20, 2009 4:35:14 AM

This post stinks.

Posted by: Claude Sunshine | Jul 20, 2009 5:08:20 AM

There's a Golden Plunger with your name on it...

Posted by: Elisson | Jul 20, 2009 2:01:26 PM

I recognize your comings and goings by the fragrant Rorschach tests you leave me to find LOVE IT!!!!

Posted by: noa | Jul 20, 2009 4:41:06 PM

who's the russian? that's the person responsible. That was an issue I am familiar with from my time in Belarus. Even though the plumbing was good enough, The doodie ended up next to the bowl anyway. Delicious

Posted by: Brad | Jul 20, 2009 5:39:19 PM

So Avi, you mean to say these fecal contributors to the litter bin feel this is a civic doody?

Posted by: Bob | Jul 21, 2009 11:37:51 PM

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