A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday.
Banishing my wife to the hotel lobby isn't something I normally insist on when travelling.
That said, however, normally we're blessed with bathroom doors that actually shut. And as much as I love my wife dearly, I'm still not that enthusiastic abou her detecting any measurable decibels of my bathroom carry-on. I've even been known to turn the shower on to drown out potential ablution-related noises, though eight months of marriage seems to have somewhat curbed this particular eccentricity somewhat.
That's the backstory and the context. A lifetime of excusing myself to dinner guests while first adjusting the volume on the living room stereo to slightly awkward levels and yes, sometimes wasting litres of water on fake showers, suggests a certain paranoia about friends, family, strangers, anyone for that matter, hearing proof I'm a functioning mammal.
So with all that fresh in your mind, imagine what it's like staying at a hotel where the bathroom door doesn't shut. Not because it's old or swollen or falling off its hinges, but instead that for some misguided reason, it's been designed that way.
I would have thought it was a fundamental part of being a door. Doors must shut. If they don't shut, then they're a merely a partition. Of course, some doors that did once successfully shut may lose that ability, but the issue here is a door that's intentionally built to never fully shut. Specifically, the non-shutting bathroom doors that are spreading from trendy hotel to trendy hotel around the world.
If this is news to you I hope you're shocked to the point of disbelief. Everyone should be. Every single human on the planet should be flummoxed at the notion of going to the toilet and being unable to shut the door. Flummoxed! But trust me, it's a thing.Research suggests that from London to Paris to Shanghai and yes, even here in New Zealand, high-end hotels are installing sliding bathroom doors that don't go all the way. What may be intended as titillation for couples (primarily new couples) where mere bathing is involved, becomes whatever the opposite of sexy is when it's time to take a literal load off.
Even if you're several degrees of sanity stronger than the weirdo who turns the stereo up and the shower on before visiting the WC when in the presence of company, you can still appreciate the privacy a closed door provides.
I couldn't do it. Sitting on the toilet in what was otherwise an outstanding 5-star hotel, I couldn't do what I gone there for. There was an inch-wide gap between the door and the wall and outside was my wife.
"Honey, do you mind just popping out to the lobby? I'll text you when I'm done".
Betel nut update: people don't chew it just to get high
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the scourge of betel nut-chewing across parts of Asia and Melanesia.
Far worse than the unsightly visual of splats of blood-looking goo on the footpath is the reality that betel nut-chewing causes mouth, throat and lung cancer and that it rots the teeth of virtually everyone who consumes it.
I knew it was a highly addictive (if mild) hallucinogenic, but what I didn't realise until the article was published was another very simple, very sad reason why so many people in developing countries are hooked on it. Or more directly, why so many desperately poor parents encourage their children to chew it: it quells hunger.
I had an email from a man who wanted to remain anonymous, but who's had experience in establishing clinics in Papua New Guinea. It was his estimate that in a country of about eight million people, there are as few as 400 doctors and fewer than 100 dentists.
Where the chewing of betel nut is rampant and the resulting health affects are catastrophic, I could think of few more sobering truths than learning just what motivates a parent to offer such a thing to their child.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and writes the blog RoxboroghReport.com