How do you flush this thing anyway?
You would think that by 2015 designers and engineers around the world would have met and agreed upon the best design for something as basic as the toilet. But of course toilets still exist in a wide variety of styles. You’ll find several here in Brazil.
Often toilets in Brazil are quite basic, even in a place frequented by tourists, such as Copacabana in Rio. If you are in a botch (a kind of neighborhood bar/luncheonette), and need to relieve yourself, you’ll need to work yourself to the back of the establishment, probably squeezing between an overweight customer on the one side, and a stack of crates of empty beer bottles on the other. Once you arrive at the toilet, you are likely to be greeted by a trough of sheet tin that looks like it was made by a 13-year-old in shop class.
There may also be a door leading to a small closet with a toilet, which almost invariably lacks a seat. There will be a plastic tank above the toilet, and a pull cord, a la the 1930s. Remember the scene in The Godfather when Al Pacino’s character retrieves a stashed pistol from behind the toilet tank in the restaurant? Like that.
Of course, the better the establishment, the better the facilities. Upscale restaurants and clubs can have very nice restrooms (“washrooms” for our Canadian readers). Still, the flushing mechanisms come in a bewildering variety of forms. In the U.S., we are used to a lever on the front of the tank, or occasionally on the side. You’ll find those styles here, but you may also encounter a button on the front, or on the top of the tank, or on the side, where it may either protrude, so you can see it, or it may sit flush (haha, unintentional) with the side of the tank, hiding it pretty effectively, especially if you’ve had a few beers. And of course, there’s our old friend the pull cord, although you won’t see him in the nicer places.
By the way, public toilets are relatively rare in Brazil. If you find yourself out and about and in need of relief, you can look for a shopping mall. As back home, there will be public toilets – usually well tended – near the food court. Also, U.S.-based fast-food chains like McDonald’s and KFC will also have toilets open to the public, which are generally pretty decent, though often they are stashed upstairs in the back.
Around Brazil, even in the upscale spots, you are likely to see a sign which says something like: “Por favor, não jogue papel higiênico denture do vaso.” This means “Please don’t throw the toilet paper into the bowl.” What, you might reasonably ask, are you supposed to do with it? You should find a trash can, sometimes large, sometimes small, next to the toilet. Used TP goes there. Ladies, ditto for your hygiene products.
And folks, I understand that you may find this arrangement embarrassing and/or disgusting, and may want to disregard the sign. However, doing so may cause a backup of the toilet – which by the way is a routine event at many hostels, where foreigners refuse to observe the rule. And you don’t want to have to explain, and possibly pay for, that! So, when in Rome!
At least you won’t encounter squat toilets like you find in Asia. I never quite mastered those. But that’s another story!
Still in Brazil