Brody: Not all improvements are necessary

A few weeks ago, I talked about the evolution of the telephone.

It got me thinking about what else has evolved in my lifetime. The list grew — from the change of music to cars, books and even toilets.

I’ll stop right there. Let’s talk about toilets.

My grandparents, Granny and Granddaddy Pete, lived in South Georgia in a house he built. There was no inside plumbing.

Because of the plumbing issue, he had to construct an outhouse at the back of the house in the chicken yard.

Because they were poor, Granddaddy saved money by not making a back to the outhouse. Because there was no back to it, and because it sat in the chicken yard, there were chickens running around free.

There were lots of hens, and one big mean rooster whose main joy in life was running behind the exposed hole and pecking the living daylights out of any hiney sitting on it.

My family lived in Atlanta about 300 miles north in a big house. We had two bathrooms, each with a toilet with a lid and a water tank behind the seat for flushing — nothing fancy but adequate with no chickens and no big mean rooster.

Ever so often, my family would drive to visit Granny and Granddaddy Pete, and we would stay three or four days. That meant sometime during the visit I had to visit the outhouse. My mother told me as soon as I learned to express myself, I revealed I would never use the outhouse.

On the third day of our visit, I had no choice. My mother took my hand tightly and marched me out the back door through the chicken yard and straight to the outhouse door.

We arrived there about the same time the horrid rooster did. I started screaming, and the rooster started dancing and hopping and crowing in anticipation of pecking my hiney.

Mother shoved me inside with her right behind me. Rather roughly, it seemed to me, she plopped me down on the hole seat and announced, “Jean, you’re not getting up until you go.”

I heard the rooster dancing a jig outside as he tried to reach his destination — which was me.

The whole episode took little time, but as we left the outhouse, I swore I was never going there again.

The first thing I did when we arrived back in Atlanta was sit on a nice regular toilet that flushed.

Then there were years where, to my knowledge, the basic toilet remained the same. Why?

Well, toilets have a specific purpose and humans always figured out how to provide. It went from a hole in the ground to a raised piece with a seat on it for convenience.

Then someone put a lid on it and then the problem came with how to flush it. I think this need for water was a huge challenge, and once conquered, we finally had designed a piece of furniture that saw a significant improvement in our standard of living.

During these years, I married and had four beautiful children. We bought a house in Delray Beach, Florida, and this house had a bathroom with a toilet like everybody else’s.

But then when the children were old enough, we decided to drive down to Miami and give them the taste of a fancy weekend.

We checked into a first-class hotel right on the beach. Did the kids high-tail it to the beach? Nope. The 10-year-old discovered the bathroom.

When I found her, she was fascinated with the toilet. Built on the back inside of the oversize toilet bowl was a button. She saw if she pushed that button a massive spray of water squirted straight up on the underside of the sitter. I yelled back, “Then sit!”

The problem was the children had no idea if one’s hiney left the seat, the giant water spray sprayed the entire room much to the children’s’ utter delight.

I laughed until my sides ached.

The image that passed to mind was me as a little kid experiencing the backless outhouse with a disgusting rooster and later in life, and a mother myself, the latest improvement in toilets became a reality for my children with the invention of the bidet.

The span between these two ideas didn’t change toilets much. Looking at pictures of toilets that provided privacy all around the world made me wonder about the concept of, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

I can see why the outhouse needed improvement but the addition of a bidet inside the toilet bowl — do you think it makes things better for us? Are all improvements really improvements? I wonder.

The view from the mountain is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.