1 Sep 2010

Word of the Day

Cloaca- The Océano Pocket Diccionario translation offers us the English word ‘sewer’ which, in my imagination, confines the noun to the underbellies of streets. Carefully removed from the security of our temperature controlled and screened-in abodes, the trope of the sewer exists at a comfortable arms length along with all of the other dirty creatures and things that can be found within them; rats, cockroaches, murder victims, abandoned animals or newborns, used condoms and syringes etc. That the sewer exists distinctly outside and away from the home is a likely mirage American plumbing offers us in order to help us forget the dirty truth that sewage pumps and pipes fill our walls and floors with shit etc. and that those shit pipes in our homes only eventually make it to the bigger shit pipes in fields, streets, and back allies at which point they are endowed with the name ‘sewer’.
Argentine plumbing is different. Houses of all kinds- new and old, luxurious and otherwise have more salient ways of water and shit management.
Let me explain. A cloaca is an integral part of an average Argentine bathroom. Some have fancy metal grates, others covered with plastic or wooden adornments, some entirely uncovered, but the fact remains that all bathrooms are equipped with a deep and narrow hole, through which you can hear (and see with the help of a flashlight) water and other materials sloshing about after flushing or using the sink. While American plumbing enables a toilet user to put their poo first out of sight, then immediately out of mind; the Argentine equivalent is not so kind. Instead, a cloaca prevents this convenient act of forgetting, and serves as a direct passageway to understanding what happens post-flush.
Gwyuanitas Sound Advice Concerning Cloacas:
1. Do not drop your cell phone into one by accident when pulling up your pants after taking a leak. And it you do, a) do not use the sink or flush, and b) rubber gloves!
2. Do not pour bleach down one to stifle odors- a novice dealing with cloacas, as I very recently was, might think, oh- this bleach will certainly help the wafting odor emananting from below. WRONG—a not so very scientific description made clear to me (only too late) that bleach kills the stuff in poo that eats poo, so the poo stops digesting itself and just hangs out, and man oh man did you think that malevolent stench was bad before!!! You got another thing comin’!

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