Why you should care
Because your derrière shouldn’t kill the rain forest.
Spicy beef rendang devoured, your stomach’s reeling. Now Mother Nature’s a callin’. But as you stumble into that small stall in Malaysia, you remember that Charmin’s hard to come by in Southeast Asia’s public loos. So, like the bold backpackers before you, you brave the built-in water sprayer that hangs next to every porcelain bowl: the bum gun.
The guidelines are simple. Just squat, aim and cleanse — and soon, you too will toss that itchy, fibrous wad we call toilet paper for good. That’s a load of crap, you say? Well, a growing camp of Westerners have already converted to the heavenly hose. Grant Perrott, a 24-year-old electrician from London who used the bum gun throughout Southeast Asia, says it’s more ergonomic, economical and effective than anything else his posterior has ever encountered: a “revolutionary bit of kit” with a “tender, sweet blast” that we won’t be able to live without one day. He now “passionately” believes that we’ll look back on our primitive wiping ways just like we regard “ancient civilizations thinking the Earth was a flat surface.”
Grimace all you want, but joining the bum gun club comes with plenty of perks. First off, for you tree huggers, it’s an environmentally friendly alternative to the 50 pounds of toilet paper the average American dumps each year, and that doesn’t even count the so-called “flushable” wipes that are clogging up sewage systems from here to there. Indeed, the bum gun was born of practical considerations; plumbing systems in developing Asia are so basic that a few sheets of tissue can throw them into a clog-and-overflow tizzy, says Bob Clampitt. (He adds that his own stainless-steel hose is downright “therapeutic.”)
If the bum gun is far less bulky and pretentious than European bidets, it’s also idiot-proof. Leave the seat-warming, air-drying, Bluetooth-equipped toilets that are far more complicated than they should be to the Japanese: The bum gun is an alternative for derrières that need quick and easy, not pomp and pampering. And it’s more sanitary, according to proponents like Conor McMillen. (The handyman, based in Texas, installed his own DIY bum gun in 10 minutes.) As far as your keister goes, water beats paper any day — and for the record, rocks and scissors probably fare much worse.
So ardent are the new bum-gunners that you can now find such attachments for sale in the West. Still, it may be hard to get more people on board. Globetrotter Lauren Manuel McShane refused to touch one when she jetted to Malaysia, complaining about the wet floors that result, the required squatting. Plus, wasting water is a big no-no in drought-ridden areas. Places like dry California may not exactly leap for the idea of a dribbling hose for your fanny. And then there are the woes of wet feet or, even worse, a damp bottom in a business suit. You still have to use one or two squares of paper to dry off if you’re in a hurry.
But at least, unlike paper, the water can be treated and reused for multiple bottom washings. One toilet paper roll takes an estimated 37 gallons of water to produce and an additional 1.6 gallons to flush down each wad. So, if you want a happier heinie, the humble bum gun is the clear underdog. It deserves its due recognition on the hygiene scene — and we don’t have to take it sitting down.