A Story About Poo

Two days ago, I was enjoying a fine evening with Sarah and Hannah. We had enjoyed a delicious meal and were in the middle of watching a recent episode of the Daily Show when that ubiquitous Japanese song starts playing. You know the one, it rings out to herald the arrival of anyone to anywhere. During any given five-minute visit to the convenience store, the bubbly tune will pierce your eardrums at least a dozen times as new customers enter. It’s a wonder the employees don’t go mad.

The same tune plays when a guest arrives at my home. Perplexed at who might be interrupting my half hour of comedy power, I went to the door to find a flustered man speaking loads of fast-paced Japanese to me. He was treated to my usual barrage of wakarimasen and gomen nasai, but undaunted by my ignorance, he pressed on.

Eventually, I heard the word toilet and started to suspect what this evening call might be addressing. Sarah approached behind me and offered her assistance with translation. Apparently, what this blustery fellow was rambling about was that my toilet tank was full.

Yes, the modern industrial nation that is Japan still relies in good part on septic systems. They have some of the finest technology in the world, but they haven’t quite figured out plumbing yet. And this from a culture obsessed with cleanliness. What may be worse, however, is that some areas have sewers, others don’t. So, you know they have the technology to efficiently dispose of human waste, but they simply have chosen not to use it or upgrade to it.

A given apartment’s waste tank needs to be emptied every once in a while. The poo truck must be summoned and employees with what might be the worst job the world jump to the task of transporting feces from your tank to their truck and off to a god forsaken facility where, hopefully, it’s dropped into a bottomless pit.

The pit at the bottom of my toilet, however, is not bottomless. And this distraught neighbour of mine was coming to inform me of this fact. You see, the poo truck has to have some kind of access to the tank – there must be some opening to the outside world where their hoses can reach the effluent. That hole just so happens to be directly outside the door of this neighbour residing below me. And when there is too much shit in the tank, guess where it goes…

Yeah, it bubbles over. It bubbles over even if there is a welcome mat on top of the lid. It bubbles over then flows down the front step into the parking lot. A stream of shit, right outside his door.

How was I to know? I couldn’t really. I didn’t know when it had last been emptied or how often it was required. And I rectified the situation as quickly as I could by calling for ye olde poo truck the following day.

Today, however, while I was at school, the neighbour called city hall and complained of the stains left behind on his front step. Rivulets of feces left their mark on the concrete as they made their downhill journey to the parking lot. He stated his messy case to city hall, and while I was unleashing my unending genki powers on the good children of Nakasato Elementary school, two of my co-workers went to his apartment and cleaned it. I wish they would have waited an hour for me to get back and I would have gone to do it myself, thus being spared the guilt of a totally uninvolved party having to scrub my excrement from my neighbour’s front step.

So that’s my poopy story for the day. It leaves me wondering what demented architect would think to place the lid for the tank directly outside another apartment’s door. Even a seven-year-old, if told to solve such a design problem, would not have made such a completely illogical choice (unless he was playing a malicious joke). There’s no good reason why the hatch couldn’t have been at least a few feet from the door and in the parking lot. Nope. Right under his doormat. Good thinking.

Leave a Reply