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    Trauma on a Train:  The Mystery of the Hi Tech Toilet  

It never ceases to amaze me where technology goes.While riding the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) on a trip to Japan in June, I had the opportunity to have a way too close encounter with a Hi Tech Toilet.I’ve seen toilets, and I’ve seen bidets.  They usually come separately.  No so in Japan.  The typical public Japanese toilet combines a variety of functions in one glorious machine.  To complicate matters, the instructions for operating the machine are in ... Japanese.  Probably the single most daunting challenge facing Western travelers in Japan is illiteracy.  Relying on a mixture of Kanji (Chinese character set) and two supplemental syllabaries, Japanese is one of the most complex writing systems on the planet.  I am a well educated, well traveled, female, and, on this day, I met my match in porcelain.  I was absolutely humbled by the system.Those of you who know me know about my water consumption, and understand an hour and a half on a train is a long stretch.  No problem, trains have modern facilities, right?  Little did I know.  Being a tad overly confident of my decoding skills, I made the mistake of making a trip to the toilet without my glasses.  The commode, itself, was recognizable.  What was not immediately recognizable, was the flusher.  Oh, my…This was a machine from another dimension, the absolute cutting edge of toilet tech.  The myriad of buttons on the control panel rivaled the cockpit of Eddy’s F-16.  O.K.  I have a few decades of bathroom going experience, I can handle this.  Pick a button.  I carefully squinted at the multicolored, multi labeled, control panel, and I picked a button.

I calmly observed the results of my choice.  A tiny robotic arm protruded into the bowl and immediately began spraying water in all directions.  Holy Moly!  I slammed the lid shut and waited out the deluge while surveying myself for water damage.  After the evil little throne calmed down a bit, I began pressing buttons randomly, carefully avoiding the one with the little fountain pictured on it, and hoping for anything else to happen.  Eventually, I found the key to success.

When I got back to my seat Chas observed that I had been gone a long time, and we were about to arrive at our station; and, oh, by the way, do you know your pants are wet?  Uh…just a little problem being lost in translation. - Bobbie