The Humble Everyday

Once upon a time, I took toilets for granted.

Yup…those precious, pristine, porcelain pedestals meant nothing to me.

Though I visited them regularly – as I still do, of course – I never gave them a second thought…not the ones in my own home and certainly not the ones in public restrooms. They were the unsung heroines of my world.

Then, I became a travel writer and everything changed. Suddenly, toilets became a serious focus for my attention – and apprehension. I kid you not. Toilets, I came to realize, are NOT the same the world over.  Some are so nasty by my prissy Canadian standards that they’re unusable. And when they’re unusable, that can have a pretty profound impact on how I spend my day. I’ve now learned that it is possible to tour foreign cities for ridiculously long periods without ever drinking a drop of anything – because I’d rather do that than face the dreaded squat toilets. (You don’t want the details about these. Let’s just say they function at…uh…a low level and using them involves a precision of aim that few users ever seem to achieve. Enough said. More than enough.)

When I returned from my last press trip to China, I was so grateful to see good old North American toilets that I nearly hugged the lady cleaning them in the ladies room at the airport. It occurred to me then that the humble toilet – and my appreciation for it – makes a great metaphor for life in general.

All too often, we take for granted the humble and the everyday – all that makes our lives here so comfortable – things like our good health, our families, and our jobs. Because these predictable things don’t change much, they rarely pop into our conscious minds, demanding our gratitude. We expect that they’ll be around because they always are.

Until they aren’t.

Who among us hasn’t experienced an unexpected piece of bad news about a health issue, a death, a layoff, a relationship disintegration or an accident? If you haven’t, count yourself very, very lucky.  If you have, you’ll know that following that piece of bad news, what hits next is an intense longing for what we had a moment before – plain old, wonderful normalcy…the predictability and security of the everyday.

We can’t prevent those bolts from the blue. When they strike, the best we can do is roll with the punches…but what we can do is appreciate all that’s best about our normal, uneventful, fabulous everyday lives. Instead of saving our gratitude for the times when we feel we’re hitting our peak we should savour all those days when we’re just chugging along on the straight-aways. Celebrate and appreciate all that you have today.

To fully flush (I mean flesh) out this analogy, I must return us to the bathroom and ask that the next time you use the facilities at a public restroom in Canada, you take a moment to appreciate the glory of the North American toilet. Believe me…you’ll never know how much you love them until you can’t find one.



Is a travel writer with weekly columns in the Toronto Star, various other newspapers and She's a thrilled to be a blog contributor, and is inspired by the people she's met through White Oaks.