Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I have long been an admirer of the manners, hospitality, and etiquette found in the people of the southern United States. That admiration increased significantly during my business trip to Pascagoula, Mississippi last week. People who had suffered losses invited me to their homes for dinner or treated me to lunch and wouldn't hear my objections. I was, after all, a guest. Those of us on the coasts could learn a thing or two from The South's generosity.

I was amused to find that southern courtesy extends even into the restroom. While partaking of a pitstop in a government building, I found myself staring at a bright red, plastic, white-letter engraved, exquisitely composed sign mounted on the stall door. This sign listed the rules of the powder room.

The first rule was, and I paraphrase here: Do not leave sprinkles on the seat. There is nothing unusual about this request, and similar instructions are provided in restrooms throughout our nation.

It was the second rule (again, paraphrased) that caused my amusement: Courtesy flushes are recommended and appreciated. Perform them several times if necessary.

A water-conservative Californian, it took me several minutes to figure out what a courtesy flush was. Apparently, it is customary in the south to immedately flush the toiled after each expulsion of the bowels. This apparently reduces the amount of stench that could possibly offend tender feminine noses in the adjoining stalls (or at the sink if you had the barbequed beans the night before).

Though my water-consciousness prevents me from partaking of this kind ritual, I have to admire the extent to which courtesy is instilled in the southern mind. And, whenever I hear multiple flushings in the women's restroom in the future, I will no longer get annoyed at the wasted water, but will instead remember to appreciate the spirit in which the flushing occurred.