30 November 2008

am Klo

Dr Grumble tries to keep his past under wraps. It's too identifying. But, for this post, he is going to have to reveal that, for a short while, he worked in Germany. Dr Grumble still takes German lessons. He is now in the advanced class. But he rarely goes to Germany any more. Mrs Grumble is not keen on Germany.

It was very many years ago that Dr G worked in Germany. The building where he worked is now derelict. But Grumble remembers it as if it were yesterday. One thing he remembers is the toilets. The Germans are very clean. Perhaps obsessionally so. Dr Grumble's German teacher thinks there is a historical explanation for this. Whatever the reason cleanliness is important to Germans and you cannot criticise them for that. Their lavatories are clean too. But they have one very unusual feature. Dr Grumble refers to this as an 'inspection panel'.

All those years ago Dr Grumble pondered over this inspection panel. He called it an inspection panel as a joke and because he could not think of any other suitable term that would adequately describe this extraordinary feature. In those far off days you couldn't google and you could hardly go to a library and asks for a book on German lavatories. But now the wonders of the internet have revealed to Dr Grumble that he is not the only one who has been pondering the design of the German water closet. The Germans are great engineers. They could design much better toilets if they wanted to. But it seems they don't. They like their toilets just as they are. It seems that what Dr G jokingly called 'inspection panels' are just that. The Germans, apparently, like to inspect what they have passed. Now isn't that odd?

What has all this got to do with medicine? The answer is that the way people behave in different countries is very different. The NHS or GPs get blamed for poor cancer survival rates. But British people are a stoical lot and very different from German people when it comes to their health. Dr Grumble's evidence for this is weak (not that he has looked for any). But one piece of evidence is that most British people are not intent on passing their excrement onto a porcelain panel for inspection. And that could mean that we are less likely to notice if we have serious bowel trouble. Or it might not. It is an interesting possibility anyway.

Dr Grumble apologises for being a bit slow off the mark with this post but world toilet day quite passed him by.

14 comments:

Dr Aust said...

I can offer a suggestion for this one, Dr G, but the explanation, according to Frau Doktor Aust, handelt sich nicht um Produktprüfungsbedarf ... though it does concern the perceived need for über-cleanliness. She says Germans find English "single drop" toilets deeply unhygienic because they lead to the undesirable phenomenon of "splash-back".

Dr Grumble said...

Dr G was anticipating an explanation from the Aust household where this must be a very important matter.

It's clear then. The shelf is a German engineering solution to a specific problem and nothing whatever to do with inspection. Just as Dr G suspected when there was no web to mislead him.

Elaine said...

Mow that I have worked out what you were talking about, the Dutch have them also.

Each to their own, I suppose.

Julie said...

I think the technical term is 'observation bowl' but I like 'inspection panel'. National toilet day? Who thinks these up?

Dr Grumble said...

You seem like an expert on this matter, Julie. And if the techinical term is observation bowl then its purpose once again becomes clear.

Dr G is now getting really confused. Does anybody know the German technical term? That should surely give some clue as to the intended function of the platform.

DWMF said...

It's called a Flachspüler. See here for explanation and other comments. Warning: put your coffe down first!

DWMF said...

For a diagram, see here. And that's quite enough now...

Dr Grumble said...

Clearly many others have been perplexed by this fascinating topic. The name Flachspüler does not impy that inspection of the material passed is an important function of the shelf.

It seems Frau Doktor Aust must be correct and that the German predilection for this design relates to a hygiene need not perceived to be a problem in most other countries.

Julie said...

I'm no expert Dr G; but when I was in Germany some years ago and encountered these toilets, the explanation that I was given was that as the Germans are big meat eaters, they check what they pass for worms. I can't remember where I heard the term 'observation bowl' but I heard it somewhere. Anyway, I think this is getting into TMI territory; each to their own, as Elaine said.

Anonymous said...

I read about this in some magazine back in the seventys I think.
Regards John Gibson

Anonymous said...

sorry that should have been seventies.

Dr Grumble said...

Dr G had no idea that the learned professor had an interest in this topic.

Will we meet tomorrow, John?

Dr Aust said...

Hi Doc

Not been by for a while and then had a computer crash while passing comment yesterday.

As you probably guessed, this subject came up in the Aust household via my offering precisely the same view you did, and Frau Dr Aust putting me straight with the explanation in my earlier post... though when I sought the authority for her statement, she just said "well everyone knows that" or similar. So whether that can be regarded as definitive...

Anyway, I thought I would use the opportunity to remind you of a famous German toilet joke, also told to me by Frau Dr Aust:

"Männer sind wie Toiletten: entweder beschissen oder besetzt"

Transl: "Men are like toilets; they're either already taken or they're full of sh*t"

Actually I recall a famous German Professor of Physiology once saying these were the first words his future wife had ever spoken to him.

Personally I reckon it would be difficult to say whether the British or the Germans are more obsessed with their bowels; the opinion of third party nations tends to be that Engländer und Deutschen are as bad as each other in this respect.

To even it up, then, I ought to give you a British toilet joke too. One of my favourite comes from Michael O'Donnell's medical anecdotes book Medicine's Strangest Cases. Discussing the British and their bowels, he recalls an elderly lady in a seaside guesthouse saying grace as follows:

"For what are about to receive, may it pass through us peacefully"

Jobbing Doctor said...

Of course another men joke goes like this:

All men are like toilets - they're either engaged or vacant.