The door clicks shut behind me. I stand in the dark for a moment. The lights flicker on. The floors are slick and clean. The room is odourless. Everything appears sterile, a far cry from the world of chaos and discord that I’m used to.

How do they keep it so damned clean?

No paper towels tossed casually on the floor, no pervading stench of urine, no sticky trash strewn in the corners or cigarette butts clogging up the sinks.

I shake my head, making my way through the bathroom past the gleaming white porcelain sinks to the tastefully painted ashen grey stalls. I push open the door of the far stall. There’s a gleaming white toilet with its plastic lid down.

Only it’s not just any toilet.

The seat itself is huge, with a thick frame and a panel jutting out of the side. All of this is attached to the outlet beside the toilet by a snakelike cord.

It’s a Japanese toilet. My electric chair.

My body grows tense as I shuffle towards it. LED lights shine a soft blue in the dim light of the stall, illuminating the panel of buttons attached at the side of the toilet.

A shudder rolls down my spine. 

I flip up the lid. 

Where are you, you bastard?

I scan the toilet bowl, searching for that evilest of evils: the bidet. It has to be in there, some hole or nozzle, ready to steal my innocence with its immoral jet.

There’s no sign of it. 

There is no inevitability to the adoption of new technology. People accept or reject them all the time.

I sigh. It comes out all aquiver, a sharp shake betraying my nerves. 

I pull down my pants. 

Sucking in a breath, I lean back, squatting down towards the seat. 

My eyes widen.

The seat is warm. Revulsion surges through me before I realize the heat isn’t from the previous occupant. It’s a heated toilet seat.

I look over each shoulder, as if to make sure that nobody in the stall is watching me. I adjust myself on the seat.

A sigh escapes my lips and despite myself I feel my body begin to melt, relaxing into the seat.

---

How many people consider themselves to be irrational? Generally, people like to think that their beliefs and decisions derive from a solid foundation of reason – whether that reason stems from scientific method and traditional schools of logic, common sense, family values, or religious traditions.

It can be an interesting exercise to test this assumption, watching the ways in which people interact with new technologies and innovations. There is no inevitability to the adoption of new technology. People accept or reject them all the time.

In North America, electric rice cookers are a popular household item, particularly for people who suck at cooking. These appliances, niche as they are in usage, are found easily enough in home appliance departments across Canada and the United States. People who cook rice with any frequency generally own one of these handy little things.

What’s interesting is that the rice cooker is a Japanese invention that started in its most primitive form aboard Japanese Imperial Army automobiles. This doesn’t seem to bother the average American consumer anymore than the presence of Mitsubishi cars on the market does – the same huge company that manufactured the Zero fighter during WWII.

See? North Americans aren’t stupid or biased. We know good technology when we see it.

If you happened to dip your hand in the toilet after you’d expelled some waste, I doubt you would simply grab a paper towel, wipe your hand, and call it a day.

What the hell is wrong with the Washlet then? Released in 1980 by Toto, the electronic bidet averaged about one million sales per year worldwide from 1980-2011. Despite that, I had never seen a bidet — electronic or otherwise — until I moved to Japan.

Popular in Europe as well, the bidet never seemed to catch on in North America. Why? Is toilet paper better? Is there a logical reason for our aversion to the bidet?

Nope.

Aside from the colossal waste of paper and the resources required to manufacture aforementioned paper, the hygienic benefits should be obvious. If you happened to dip your hand in the toilet after you’d expelled some waste, I doubt you would simply grab a paper towel, wipe your hand, and call it a day.

Now, that’s not to say there aren’t good reasons to question bidet use – in my research I uncovered a scientific study that proposed “anal fissures” and the “destruction of vaginal flora” as potential side effects of bidet usage.

(Things I never want to think about: anal fissures and vaginal flora.)

But how many North Americans read these studies before they thought to themselves, Hmm… The bidet just isn’t for me…?

Why won’t we use this obviously superior technology?

---

It’s time.

The deed is done.

I look longingly at that most familiar of friends curled up in a roll beside the toilet.

It’s not like I have to use the bidet. I could just use the toilet paper. Nobody is going to stop me.

But won’t I always wonder?

I look down at the panel of buttons, and surprisingly enough, I can read the first two.

Beneath ビデ (bidet) is a pictogram of a girl in the seated position, with what looks like a colossal geyser surging from beneath her up into her posterior. The second button says: おしり (oshiri – butt). The pictogram depicts a beautifully heart-shaped butt accepting a direct hit from a narrower, more targeted geyser – not unlike the scene in which the Death Star is destroyed.

The last button is red. Red with a black box in the center. I can’t read the characters above it because they are in kanji, but its purpose is clear enough. This is essentially the electronic equivalent of a safe word.

I’m already clenching, despite the warm, relaxing seat.

A battle rages within. My heart tells me it should feel wrong.

WHAT WOULD PEOPLE THINK?!” It bellows at me.

My head doesn’t care.

“Don’t you want to be clean? And I bet that jet feels pretty good. Press the button.”

“Don’t do it!”

“You know you want to.”

“No!”

I push the butt button and hope for the best.

---

Most people have some irrational fear – I have an irrational fear of mayonnaise – but it’s important that people have the educational resources to at least understand their fears a little better.

Chapman University conducted a Survey of American Fears, and the results placed technological fears in second behind those involving natural disasters. Oddly enough, death placed 43rd.

Nuclear weapons, drone strikes, unchecked surveillance – these are all technologies that should be questioned and feared — because they all represent rational concerns.

Being afraid of an electronic bidet because you think water shooting up your butt might turn you gay? That’s not rational. That’s cultural bias at its most inhibitive and destructive.

Conversations should be opened about these issues – not to protest or preach but to discuss, debate and educate.

Most people have some irrational fear — I have an irrational fear of mayonnaise — but it’s important that people have the educational resources to at least understand their fears a little better.

Technological advancements have often been challenged by social and cultural institutions. Some challenges are useful and ask necessary questions. Fear of automation in the workforce can be supported by logic and evidence; fear of Satanic weaving looms cannot.

As we surge towards breathtaking advancements (medical in particular) we are going to have to come to terms with a lot of technologies that make us squeamish. Organ donation is still a sore subject for some. How will they fare with the advent of 3D-printed and cloned organs? A neurosurgeon from Italy plans to attempt the world’s first head transplant. The scientific community is dabbling in realms that most of us continue to see as dystopian science fiction.

Conversations should be opened about these issues – not to protest or preach but to discuss, debate and educate.

 

---

I grab the cold metal handle of the toilet and flush.

Down and around it swirls, carrying the last of my prejudices against this wonderful machine.

I open the door of the stall, feeling refreshed and liberated. Neither chaffed nor ashamed. I hold my head as high as my poor posture allows, walking towards the sink.

The door to the first stall creaks open, and I can’t help but crane my head to look inside.

There’s a hole in the ground with a sad porcelain frame. As though someone wanted to design a toilet that resembled a ditch. There is no stool to sit on — just that porcelain hole in the floor — with a single lever for flushing.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why someone would use a toilet like that.