Monday, October 06, 2003

Bodacious Bidet

Now here's a product requiring in its ad copy a writer of extraordinary tact. One slip in his choice of words and things could get messy. I think he gets off to a pretty good start:

Everything in life evolves. Including the concept of clean. What is clean? What's the most effective way of cleaning ourselves? Introducing the Washlet. Innovative. Luxurious.

Those portentous fragments have you sold already, don't they? Yes, the Washlet. And what exactly is it? Well, it's not easy to explain, and that's why I thank God He made copywriters:

The bathroom accessory that turns your bathroom into an oasis of serenity and comfort. The Washlet uses water. Nature's most gentle and essential element. Purifying. Relaxing. Quite simply, the epitome of clean. The evolution of clean.

In all that there is only one complete sentence, and yet the whole inspires homage to the inevitable, that almost mystical sense of comfort by which we are transported when privileged to witness another stride in civilization's progress. Still not clear as to exactly what it is? The copy speaketh:

Washlets are the next generation of toilet fixtures from TOTO...

No, this doesn't refer to Dorothy's dog or some admiral in the Japanese navy. It's a company. And the word 'fixture' doesn't quite spell it out. Okay, I'll give it a shot: the Washlet does for toilet paper what the internal combustion engine did for the horse and buggy; what the light bulb did for kerosene lamps; what word processing did for the typewriter; or, more to the point, what flushing toilets did for the outhouse. Now that you have an approximate, if not exact, idea of what it is, your next question is as inevitable as peristalsis: how does it work?

For maximum comfort, your Washlet uses a streamlined wand that extends to provide a soothing warm flow of aerated water for complete cleansing.

I know, it sounds a little creepy: a streamlined wand extending... And if any of the slow-to-comprehend are inclined to ask "for complete cleansing of what?" - I'm not going to draw you any pictures. This is hard enough as it is. Suffice it to say that the phrase "porcelain throne" need no longer sound so royally cold and uninviting:

...the Washlet offers a wide array of innovative features..., among which is a heated seat, guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of any monarch. And, "There's a soothing warm air dryer... We even took your olfactory senses into consideration by including an air purifier." No smell, no mess, what more could one ask? Well...."And the nozzle automatically self-cleans before and after each use." And why would it need to do that? Just how close does the nozzle get? Is there some kind of backwash involved?

We cordially invite those who haven't experienced the unprecedented level of pleasure one derives from the Washlet to visit one of the fine stores that carry... You mean we get to test drive it right there in the store? Unprecedented pleasure? No longer will a trip to the head be thought of as "nature's call", mildly resented for the occasional inconvenience of its timing; henceforth, it will be a thing eagerly anticipated, like a dip in the jacuzzi. Just as the science of embalming has allowed the American funeral ritual to become an affair dragged out for a week or more without our having to look death too squarely in the face, so now we can take a dump without being overly bothered by what's actually taking place.

In describing the benefits to both sexes, the writer forsakes the language of luxury, purity, and "the evolution of clean," and gets graphic instead. For women: Warm water cleansing is especially helpful during the normal course of menstruation and many women find its soothing properties can help alleviate the associated discomforts of constipation and irritation. The Washlet is especially helpful during and after pregnancy to help soothe anal irritation, hemorrhoids, and general discomfort. I don't know. There's something about seeing pregnancy and hemorrhoids in the same sentence that gives me indigestion. And for you ladies who still think it's dirty: Many women also find the Washlet to be a soothing and hygienic way to clean up after intercourse.

And for men: A New Level of Hygiene for Men: Washlets provide specially designed water cleansing for the... On second thought, there is only one "area" they might be talking about and I really don't want to go there. We also learn that we can ...use the softer washing mode for gently cleansing to soothe affected areas or increase pressure for a more thorough cleansing, and, though I see potential for abuse, I don't want to go there either.

There is also a section detailing Renewed Confidence & Dignity for Senior Citizens; another concerning Personal Care for People with Disabilities; and another allowing Comfort and Relief for Hemorrhoid Sufferers. There is no section entitled An End to Potty Training, but I foresee such an eventuality, and would ask you Moms out there: what kind of world will we have when a kid no longer has to learn anything more about using the toilet except the punching of a button?

There are, however, testimonials from users, of whom there are 17 million (and growing) worldwide. From a layman: We love it! I would absolutely recommend the washlet product. Kids love it too. Pitch this toilet to parents! Such flatulent praise must be music to TOTO's ears. And from a medical professional: We are an obstetrics and gynecology office and it works very well for our patients' needs. That seems lukewarm to me. Or another: We are a prenatal clinic and birthing center. Our clients seem to like the washlets a lot. Seem to? But my favorite is this one, from a doctor carrying the 128 dollar,handheld, battery-powered model on his journey through the Indian subcontinent: friends roared with laughter when they heard about my Travel Washlet. But by the end of the trip, they were jealous and asked to borrow it. I used it forty to fifty times; it performed flawlessly and still has its original battery. Congratulations on a terrific product! People are like that, aren't they? Always disguising envy with laughter. The only question I had was how the topic came up in the first place.

For the exceedingly curious, there are close-up pictures of the offending - I mean 'extending' - wand and even a demo video of the thing in action. I skipped it because, considering the subject matter, I was averse to downloading the Quick Time plug-in required to view it.

All in all, society is rapidly embracing the concept of Automated Evacuation, and, as a wise man (Richard Weaver, I believe) once told us, "ideas have consequences." What those consequences might be I have no idea. But the notion of the bathroom as a place of pleasure (aside from a hot shower) sounds evil to me. Will people actually abandon the television for the experience of the Washlet? Will dinner be late on the table because someone doesn't want to get off the toilet? Will the children's homework be neglected because a parent is "too busy" to help? Will the purifying, cleansing luxury of the extended wand become a substitute for the classic female headache? No one can say with certainty. In the interim, until all possible ramifications have been thoroughly vetted, I think a visit to the toilet ought to remain an event that one would rather be quickly done with.

Besides, with the sit-down varieties of the "epitome of clean" starting at around 500 dollars, and the higher end models topping out at around 1400, this is one "regular" visitor who will have to remain content for a while longer with squeezing the Charmin.


Serenity and comfort? This just doesn't work in a home with one full bath for 8 people. (I certainly wouldn't put up the money for the downstairs powder room - and have it become it local 'tourist' attraction. )
I shudder to think how dreadful it would be to work for this enterprise and have to go to houseware shows, etc. Ick.
Posted by Ellyn von Huben email at October 6, 2003 09:25 PM

Yeah, tupperware-style Washlet parties.
Posted by William Luse email at October 7, 2003 01:34 AM

ROTFLMAO! Whoops! After "ROTF," my "A" might get dirty--in which case I'd have occasion to test out the "magic wand!"
What a hoot you are, Bill!
I agree--this is too much. At least other "products" are sold in brown paper wrappers in the back of magazines like Cosmo. This one expects to be demonstrated at the local Mall!
Posted by KTC email at October 7, 2003 07:56 AM

Um . . . dare I ask how you came upon this blogging material?
Posted by Paul Cella email at October 7, 2003 09:33 AM

Posted by PeonyMoss email at October 7, 2003 09:47 AM

I'm speechless!
You just can't make stuff like this up.
Posted by TSO email at October 7, 2003 10:25 AM

No, TS, I can't, though I wish I could.
That Peony is a model of concision when she wants to be.Well, Paul, the other morning after breakfast, a cigarette, and a particularly strong cup of coffee - and feeling somewhat bloated with weighty social issues - I and the newspaper headed for the bathroom...Oh, you wanted the truth. In that case, I saw an infomercial for it on late night TV. I had a credit card and they had a phone number and a website address. I didn't use the credit card, but I did visit the website. It was quite a relief to get this out of my system.
Posted by William Luse email at October 7, 2003 08:16 PM

I'm sorry, it makes it even worse if it is being advertised on an infomercial!
It speaks to the fact that they couldn't get anyone to be a manufacturer's rep and take it around to Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware, etc. to try to sell it.
I'm with Peony on this one. Yick.
Posted by Terry email at October 8, 2003 07:53 AM

Oh, and I forgot. The fact that there is a PORTABLE one is just beyond the pale.
Posted by Terry email at October 8, 2003 07:54 AM

Imagine pulling it out of your handbag to show your friends how you're keeping up with the latest innovations.
Posted by William Luse email at October 8, 2003 12:54 PM

Okay, so I'm not as demure or bashful as I am brash, but I'd love to see one of these things. It looks like a WaterPik to me. I wonder...
Posted by smockmomma email at October 9, 2003 11:54 PM

I love brash women, but I'm not going to ask you what you're wondering.
Posted by William Luse email at October 10, 2003 01:14 AM

*ROTFL* This ranks up there with Microsoft's Internet-wired portapotty.
Posted by Margaret email at October 11, 2003 01:32 PM

Europeans might like it, though. What I thought was a high-off-the-ground foot basin in my hotel bathroom was actually...well, it *was* for cleaning.
Posted by Margaret email at October 11, 2003 01:41 PM

Thanks for stopping by Margaret.
Posted by William Luse email at October 11, 2003 04:30 PM

prepare to be inundated - Mark Shea just blogged this link!
Posted by alicia email at October 11, 2003 06:46 PM

Jeff Miller beat you to it, Alicia, but thanks. Hope the job treats you a little gentler tomorrow.
Posted by William Luse email at October 12, 2003 02:01 AM

Remember the Saturday Night Live sketch?
"Hey, your A.. don't smell!"
Posted by The Barrister email at October 13, 2003 04:00 PM

Thanks for the memories, Barrister. I think.
Posted by William Luse email at October 14, 2003 02:25 AM

After 13 years I laugh all the way to the bank. Sales this year will pass three million units. Home Depot, Lowes, Wal Mart, Rite Aid and Walgreens all have these products on their shelves. Remember this: North America is the only continent that uses tissue only. No other contry in the world would take a step backwards to use tissue. In 20 years 40% of all homes in the U.S. will have at least one.
Posted by kc email at November 4, 2003 01:05 PM

You can laugh all the way to the bank. The rest of us will just laugh.
Posted by William Luse email at November 7, 2003 01:55 PM

We have been traveling to places in Europe and Asia for many years. Bidets were a novelty and we didn't know what they were for - initially. We were also surprised to discover that major portions of the world do not have sit down toilets. In the near east, you squatted and, in the ritzy places, there was a hose so you could clean up your bottom. Then we realized that many countries including France, Spain and Japan sort of jumped from squatting to sitting and the bidet next to the flush toilet was to help a person clean up the mess without using the crude wipe with a piece of "toilet paper"! In 1993, we first saw one of the toilet top bidets in a very nice resort named Burau Bay on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia. The owner of the resort proudly pointed out the advantages of his recently installed Automatic added to the toilet bidet with jets to flush the rear and the front for the ladies, I think the person who started this chain of comments probably didn't appreciate the change in the US from outhouses to indoor flush toilets.Get with it, if you can afford a good cleanup, back and front, if necessary, and warm air to finish the drying process and a built-in deodorizer get up to speed and forget your antique facilities.Try it you will like it and it is okay to mention bowel movements without giggling!
Posted by Norman email at August 10, 2004 11:35 PM

You can get with it by discovering a sense of humor.
Posted by William Luse email at August 11, 2004 01:21 AM

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