When my middle child was four years old, we lived for a short time next door to a lovely elderly couple from Puerto Rico. Well, she was from Puerto Rico. I think he was from Spain. They didn’t have any children of their own. They were both very friendly and took to my son immediately, as he was (and is) very sociable and likeable. They invited him to come over any time, and they would feed him delectable cookies and endless glasses of milk. Whenever I couldn’t find him, I knew he would be next door sitting at their kitchen table, enduring kisses and adoring glances in exchange for food.
My son took these people at their word. Before long, he felt as comfortable at their house as he did at ours. One Saturday, he told me he was going over to see them. He was gone for about an hour. Just long enough for a kid to get up to something. When he came home, he told me that the couple had gone out somewhere for the evening, so he had had to come on home.
It was about nine o’clock when I heard a knock at my front door. It was the woman.
“Hello,” she said apologetically when I answered the door.
“Oh, hello. How are you?” I asked, inviting her in.
She stayed outside on the front porch.
“I’m afraid we have a little problem,” she said, looking over her shoulder towards her house.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, stepping out and closing the door behind me.
“I think you need to see it for yourself.”
I followed her next door. She led me through the back door and into her kitchen. There was about two inches of water on the floor. Everywhere. I didn’t understand. She motioned me to follow her up the stairs that led to the hallway and into her bedroom. There was water there, too. She disappeared through a door and I followed her into the bathroom, where she was standing just inside the door, in yet another puddle of water. There, in the middle of the bathroom, was a bidet. Water arced in a perfect little stream from the faucet into the bowl – which was full – and overflowed onto the floor below.
I still didn’t understand why she had called me over. And then she said softly,
“___ was over here today.”
“I know. But he came home when you left,” I said stupidly.
“Yes, he did. But he turned on the water before he left.”
“What? Why?” I was finally beginning to understand what this disaster had to do with me.
“He was in the bathroom just before we left. I called him as we were leaving and told him he needed to go home.”
I apologized profusely and offered to help clean up the mess. We mopped and sponged up water for a couple of hours. Fortunately the floors were concrete so they weren’t ruined. But there were cardboard boxes under the bed that had gotten soaked and we had to empty them out and lay the contents out to dry: they were full of clothes and books and pictures. Some of the clothes needed washing so I took them home with me. I went to my son’s room and asked him if he had turned on the bidet.
“It’s that thing in the bathroom, next to the toilet.”
“Oh that? I thought it was a water fountain!”
The next afternoon, my neighbor showed up at the door again. She was clutching a bag under her arm and she smiled expectantly as she offered it to me. I opened it and pulled out several boxes of Hummel figurines.
“I found these in one of the boxes,” she said. “I thought maybe you might want to buy them. They’re collector’s items, you know. But I need to sell them. I think three hundred dollars is a fair price.”
We stood there, looking at each other, for what seemed like forever. She smiled innocently. I wasn’t a collector, and even if I was, it sure as hell wouldn’t have been Hummel figurines. But that day, I became one.
And that’s why bidets have no business in American bathrooms.