By the time your planets have aligned in just the right position to have you reading these words, I’ll be back in New Jersey after a 12-day trip abroad. It’s the longest I’ve ever been gone from home on my own, and it’s been unreal. I saw Paris for the first time, and London (which I’ve been to before, but still) and Eindhoven and Tilburg in the Netherlands were both fantastic to me. I went to music festivals and ate good food and drank fantastic beer and life was basically ideal. If I’d won that $600 gajillion lottery, I wouldn’t be leaving.

But you know, one of the inevitable things about leaving home for any real stretch of time is that you notice all the little things you have arranged in your life to be just the way you like them—or if not that, at least then what you’re used to. Being someone in whom habits strongly ingrain themselves (has its ups and downs, but among other things makes me easily acclimated to weekly deadlines), I tend to want to rebuke unnecessary changes to my routine. The thing I’ve missed the most while I’ve been gone all this time? My toilet.

Now let’s get one thing straight. I’m talking about things here, not people. Of course, I’ve missed my wife tremendously, and my family, and the dog, and the few individuals I consider friends. They obviously come first—or maybe in a collective second to the dog—but in terms of material things, I’m not really attached to much. My CD collection, a few books, my car, and that’s really it. My laptop I have with me, and that’s more of a tool than something I really enjoy, and it’s not like I get any great thrill out of using the toilet—though I won’t deny that on occasions it can be tremendously satisfying—but it’s just one thing in my life that I’m very used to having a certain way.

European toilets are strange. The one in London was terrible, nestled in about a three-foot-wide space between the bathtub and the wall. The one in Paris was strange, protruding ominously from the wall. It wasn’t until I got to the Netherlands that the toilets made sense again, and even then, there are two levels of flushing to choose from, marked with the telling “1” and “2,” and the rest of the bathroom is all off. What the hell is the point of a shower that’s closed on one side and open on another? You’re still going to get water everywhere. You might as well just have it open on all sides if you’re not going to close the damn thing.

In showers too, London was the worst, but I think I was staying in an old building, so I’m not about to judge the entire city’s facilities by this one establishment. Either way, I don’t want to be judging bathrooms at all. I just want my own. My sink, my toilet, my shower with the curtain that’s actually long enough to reach the floor (that was Eindhoven; again, water everywhere), the rubber ducky I have placed on the guest towels. All of it. I’m sick of trying to figure out which way makes the water hot and what the hell that little button is for and why when I press it does the water get obscenely hot. It’s time for all that to end.

And that’s how I know that, as I sit here and write this column in my hotel room in Tilburg after one of the greatest weekends of my life, I’m ready to come home.

Obviously, the bathroom thing has been no impediment to the trip. It’s not a crisis. But it has shown me one more thing in my life that I apparently have an opinion about. Let no stone go unturned or unevaluated.

JJ Koczan

jj@theaquarian.com

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