Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Design Flaw in Afghani Plumbing

Before you read the following entry I just want to assure you that I do have a blog ready to go that actually pertains to the filming we are doing here in Afghanistan.  However, after just returning from the bathroom on this sunny morning in paradise, I have to address an issue that has perplexed us since arriving more than two weeks ago:  Afghani toilets.

Since joining Principle Pictures back in January 2002, I’ve had the unbelievable good fortune to travel around the world, some 23 countries in that time.  And I feel that my ability to adapt to a variety of environments is pretty dam good.   There are very few essentials that I require in traveling abroad:  I need food that agrees with my system, bottled water to avoid the ills that can come from local sources, a way to communicate with the locals and of course a place to lay to rest my bodily waste.  As far as this last need goes, I’ve truly run the gamut.  From 5-star hotel bathrooms in Barcelona, Spain to the great outdoors in the deserts of western Mongolia where I would set fire to my used toilet paper as a meaningless offering to the Mongolian poop Gods.  But here in Afghanistan I have reached my limit.  Take a moment to observe the attached photograph while I attempt to explain the absurd flaw in this design in the least grotesque way possible.

the bane of my existence here in Kabul...the 2nd floor toilet
Analogy to my toilet dilemma:  Imagine you are the lucky owner of an in-ground pool and you desperately want to install a diving board.  So you call upon the expertise of two companies to advise you on the placement of said diving board and you await their assessment.  The American company hands you an appraisal with the following advice:

Dear owners of the in-ground pool,

As experts in our field, we must advise you to put the diving board over the deep end of the pool.  The logic being that as each diver descends into your shimmering water, they will have the depth necessary to reach the bottom while allowing ample space for any number of divers, regardless of shape or size, that may follow.  The fact that this is even a discussion open for debate makes us question how such morons came to possess such a luxury.  Are you the dim-witted children of astronauts?  Did you magically come into money by obsessively buying scratch-off tickets?  The debate should not be where to put the diving board, but instead whether a diving board should be in the possession of such ill-equipped brains.  We look forward to working with you.

American Company

A day later you receive the appraisal from the Afghan company, which reads:

Dear owners of the giant waste of clean drinking water,

Before advising you on the placement of the diving board, may we first suggest draining the water low enough so that the shallow end is void of all moisture, and the deep end is considerably lower in volume.  Once this is completed, our suggestion is to put the diving board over the bone-dry shallow end.  The logic being that as each diver descends into the pool they will stick to the shallow cemented floor below, causing a pileup of divers as each one flops onto the swelling mound.  Now we must caution you that eventually the small hill of divers will reach such a height that further diving becomes impossible due to it’s peaks proximity to the bottom of the diving board.  At this point we have supplied you with a button that acts as a sort of firehose, pushing the divers off the moon-like surface of the shallow end and into the watery depths of the deep, freeing up space for further deployment.  In our experience, we see no other way that would make sense.  We hope you accept our proposal.

Afghan Company

I hope through this illustration you can see the flaw in this design.  Allow me to go one step further.  What the Afghan company fails to mention is that dead divers don’t exactly glide across dry surfaces.  In fact, it is rare that the gush of water meant to coax them into action works as planned.  Therefore, it requires the hand of God, the creator of all divers to reach his holy grip down from the heavens to manually push his dead children across this barren wasteland and into their final resting place which, as we now know is the water that sits oh so very close by.  A similar act to pushing a beached whale back into the ocean.  This as you can imagine is a degrading act for any deity to perform and does not exactly leave the shallow end of the pool in a state that says, “Welcome home.”  The aftermath instead makes you dread visits to the diving board to the point where you avoid it and avoid it until you are doubled over in excruciating pain having made the divers wait on the bus for far too long.

Now I don’t know if all toilets here are created equal, but assuming my experience is the status quo, and seeing as America is largely responsible for the reconstruction efforts here in Afghanistan, I am making a plea that they please fly over an army of plumbers to reverse the fortunes of this obvious blunder.  Otherwise I may have to resort to sitting backwards on further trips to the pool.


  1. I laughed my way through this entire post. So entertaining! Hopefully, the plumbing gods will hear your plea. Either that, or you're home before your forced to reverse position. ;)

  2. You poor dear, i thought you were going to say you had a turkish toilet, wow this is far worse. avoid the fiber.

  3. 2 words to solve your dilemma: reverse cowboy