I think I can sum up the difference between China and the United States in one word. That word is:

bathroom

Now look, both countries have their (pardon the pun) crap-ass toilet set-ups. The US has their ripe porta-potties, and China has their indescribable squat toilets; but when you want to look at the best of both worlds, where else better to start than the gateway to the respective countries, the airports?

LAX is arguably the busiest airport in the West, as is Check Lap Kok of Hong Kong in the East. The bathrooms in these airports see millions of bums a year. For many, it is the first or last impression of the country in which they reside…and I gotta tell you, if I was just leaving my first trip to the US to go back home to Hong Kong, I would be saying Good Riddance to the Melting Pot.

Let me put it more plainly: The men’s bathroom in the international terminal of LAX is the worst bathroom I have ever seen outside of:

1. the aforementioned porta-potty
2. any of the hundreds of dug for myself whilst in the woods, or
3. “Mr. Poopy”, the portable toilet that we had when some college friends and I went on a mountain biking/white-water rafting trip. The guides carried the thing around with us for the whole week, and it serviced something like 10 people (oh, imagine a small box with a toilet seat on it. Congratulations, you’ve just imagined a Mr. Poopy!).

Mr. Poopy, by the way, was not without it’s charms, as it was often set up in some bucolic Utah meadow, and it did have a friendly name.

Men’s bathroom in the Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX, however? Completely without charm. The 4 urinals are selective clogged with gum, paper towels, and/or socks(?) a t-shirt(?) I have no idea. The urinals are out. There are 3 stalls:

Stall 1 is relatively clean…but has no door.
Stall 2 is considerably less clean with toilet paper piled up around the back of the toilet in what appears to be an attempt to soak up a slow leak. The door of stall 2 has no lock, but doesn’t need one as the door doesn’t actually close, and is covered with some sort of biological matter that I don’t care to dwell on the memory of.
Stall 3 is the handicap stall. This means that Stall 3 has the most room in which to dump all of your trash in. There is the requisite toilet paper everywhere, but also some fast food containers (people are eating in here?!), empty or partially so drink bottles, random scraps of paper, more clothes…it’s disgusting.

Now cover everything that you’ve just seen in graffiti, and you’ve done it. Welcome to the United States! I walked into this place before my flight to Hong Kong, and literally walked out 45 seconds later laughing my ass off. I had made the decision that I would instead hold my business…my serious business…for 15 to 16 hours and wait until I was in Asia. And when I did get to Asia, what a wonderful contrast. This bathroom had no graffiti. All of it’s doors were functioning, and in fact closed with a satisfying and precise click. The floor was so clean that I would have eaten fast food off of it. I wanted to stay forever. I want to be there now, in fact, just to hang out. That pretty much does it for America. Good game, but we’re done.

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