God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Missing the Bidet

A common question asked of us these days is: "What do you miss about Italy?"

There is so much and it is so total.

But......today I realized that I do miss the....bidet.

Most Americans wonder about this bathroom fixture. What in the world does one do with it? Why do Europeans find these so important that they are even in the Autostrada bagni? Does anyone really use them there?

However, today was leg defuzzing time and I realized how convenient the bidet is for this--far better than any option available here. It's the perfect height, the water is nicely warm--it is easy and comfortable. I need one.

This plumbing marvel is also very useful for soaking clothes and watering plants. Casey's greyed karate uniform looked new after a few hours in the bidet and the plants thrived and grew. I wish I had the foresight to photograph this fixture for illustration purposes.

Another thing I miss is one found in all Italian kitchens--in fact, most European kitchens. This is the over the sink draining cupboard--a brilliant accoutrement. For the uninitiated this looks like a cupboard but in reality is a hidden place to drain the washed dishes and store them until their next use. Even with a dishwasher there are things we wash the old-fashioned way--by hand. The draining cupboard is such an improvement over the counter drain where one must either dry dishes right away (a real bore) or let the kitchen be cluttered and disfigured (which I hate). With this cupboard it is truly out-of sight-out-of-mind until you next need that pan. I would definitely have one installed here except that I have windows above my sink--no room for a cabinet.

What else do I miss?

Well, the vast variety of toilet flushers is a possiblity. No two are alike. Sometimes it takes several minutes to locate one in the current room of use. Is it high on the wall? A chain to pull from the overhead? On the wall at the side? On top of the toilet tank? On the floor? On the side? Where? The creativity in designing clearly requires a Lego builder's mind.

Another candidate for nostalgia is the glove that one must wear when selecting produce at the grocery store. In Italy, you may not casually pick up a tomato with nude fingers. When entering the produce section, the first thing that must be done is don one of the cellophane gloves found in a little dispenser. It is always easy to spot the newcomer who naively picks over the onions or broccoli with uncovered hands. People in the know look askance at this faux pas.

The top box

Along with the gloves, also comes the weigh-in. As you bag your produce, you weigh each item by pushing its number or picture. Out comes the price tag which is then affixed to the bag. All the checker needs to do is scan the code. We could really benefit from this technique.

See How Easy?
And--trash pickup--or absence of such. Italy is extremely environmentally conscious. Recycling is a priority with schools having major units on the need to respect land, air and water--Casey is horrified if we so much as throw a plastic bottle cap in the general refuge container.

But--door-to-door pickup is not common. Instead, huge containers are along the sides of the roads--green for bottles/tin/plastic, grey for general kitchen type garbage and yellow for paper products. People must deposit their items in these bins. I can not tell you how often we took our garbage with us in the trunk only to arrive back home with it--having forgotten to dump it. Our consolation was that our Italian friends often did the same thing.

The fact is that I truly do miss these things. They are part of who I am now. Of course, in traveling to Italy over the years, I was aware of these things--nothing was new to me--but having lived them for a sustained time, they are no longer a novelty. They are part of an everyday life that was mine.

Today I find myself hesitant to touch produce at the grocery store --it just doesn't seem right. I look for the glove and cringe to see carrots being picked over. Today I was at a fast food place (yes, I admit that) and the flusher was a very European knob on the top--I smiled. However, the bidet was missing--the room seemed incomplete.


Barbara said...

Oh Jane! I can only imagine what 're-entry' has been like for you. When we go to the states it's fun to see the bright lights and big stores because we know we'll be going back home to Italy in a few weeks, but to know that you won't return for a full year......agony!

Jane said...

Barb, it is agony! Truly! I still feel separate from all that is around me right now. I guess in time we will fit in again but we seem to be fighting that. We have learned that small is better. How I hope you get to stay there.

Gil said...

Have you started to plan your next move there? I think that some of the stores around here, Connecticut, have the scales for weighing and labeling.
I bet your local plumbing supply store has bidets available. Hope al is well.

Jane said...

Ciao, Gil--fun to hear from you. I suspect you are right--bidets have hit USA--but, seems like a big expense for little use. Connecticut is always ahead of the game here--maybe the other 49 will pay attention. Of course, USA so often thinks they have so little to learn.

Next trip? In June for 6 weeks--can't wait to revisit our life there.

Gil said...

I was wrong about the grocery stores in Connecticut. You bag up your fruit and produce in plastic bags by type of item. At the checkout (self) counter you place the bags one at a time on the scale and enter the code on the item inside the bag. And on and on. Sorry.

Jane said...

Gil--all's forgiven!