Posted on June 13, 2009 Posted by John Scalzi 65 Comments
Dude, if you’re having such a problem wiping your ass that you have to consider this, it’s time to get a bidet.
(Update, 1:18pm: Folks the comment thread note there are legitimate reasons to need something like this. Point taken, and I should have noted that. But I don’t think the makers of the ad are hoping to entice just that audience.)
Ah, American ingenuity! What’s next . . . house cranes!? I had this idea for an animated television series a while back, called “The Cranes.” The show was centered around the first American family to have a small industrial crane installed in the middle of their front lawn. The smart crane plucking the extremely obese Cranes, including grandma and grandma, up out of their boat-like cars and plopping them down on their front doorstep. I imagined smaller crane in the house, moving around on tracks. Maybe it was a . . . glimpse into the future. I probably got the idea from Wall-E. Anyway, this commercial is definitely a step in that direction. I’ll pass . . . I’ll wait for the Japanese to invent an ass-wiping robot, thank you very much.
Eh, for someone who’s got a back or shoulder injury, that thing’d be a lot cheaper than installing a bidet. I’m not sure how well it works, but it probably works better than not being able to reach your ass at all.
Besides, if I wanted a bidet, I’d need a bigger house.
Ah, but what a difference a bidet makes…..
Okay, sorry, but there’s no such thing as a good pun.
The idea – not so sure about the actual product – makes sense for very obese people, for the elderly, and for people with injuries. But as a regular commercial product…? Not so much.
They should’ve paid the fee to license the name and called this the Ass-Swiffer.
Also: The ad cites the 80s as the last major development in butt hygiene. What might that have been? Did I miss a memo? Could I have unwittingly used said memo to “clean up”?
#1 Haloblazer—If the robot uprising’s gonna start anywhere, it’ll be from a Poo-Bot or an iWipe (or whatever the marketing wizards call it) that suddenly goes Skynet and realizes exactly what the humans are making it do. Boy do I not want to be the first human to feel the cold, unforgiving claws of its nether vengeance.
I used to work with a man who claimed the way you used toilet paper was take one square, poke a hole through the middle, clean yourself, then wipe your finger clean as you pulled it out of the square.
I make no claims on this as I never(I swear) tried it.
Does anybody but me find the little cut to the shower scene disturbing? Because I immediately thought, “Ew ew ew… that woman’s scrubbing her back with it!”
That’s double duty I don’t want to imagine.
Actually, I can see that being pretty useful for someone without full range of arm motion, due to age or disability or whatever reason.
I mean, it’s not like a bidet will necessarily get everything (at least not from my experience with the ones I ran into in Japan), and if it’s either this or having to get someone else to wipe your ass, I’d be glad folks have the option of this.
I’ve seen bathrooms, toilets in particular, in Japan that look like they belong on the Sparrowhawk. They’re already light years ahead of the pack. Hmm, maybe you buy some arse-wiping software for that Japanese robot girlfriend, poor insentient thing. For an extra 10,000 YEN . . . experience the pleasure of [rather not elaborate on the subject any further]
@5, Schizohedron: Why should robots find poop any more or less disgusting than anything else about us? They don’t have our hard-wired “that’s gross!” instinct.
For wiping your own? No . . . someone elses? Genius . . .
I think rehabilitation companies making products for physically impaired people do offer stuff like this but an ad campaign for the general public seems out of line. No wonder people in the Middle East think we Westerners are disgusting for our bathroom habits. They also consider it an insult when we use our left hand to shake their hand since that’s the hand we’re supposed to do our business with.
OK, regarding the guy who says: Being a big guy has its advantages. And its disadvantages.
1) he’s not nearly big enough to be unable to wipe his own ass.
2) what advantages are those? “I may not be able to wipe my own ass, but I CAN damage furniture by not being careful when I sit on it! And if you need someone to be winded after one flight of stairs, I’m your guy!”
I know that certain Little People (and sorry but can’t remember the scientific term–I’m talking about those with arms relatively shorter than their torsos) use something like this. But the whole idea that just *touching* TP is gross? What’s next? Full-body condoms to protect you from every other germ in the world? This is why you WASH YOUR HANDS people! geez…
What am I thinking!? Moving your robot girlfriend into the bathroom would be such a hastle . . . probably poop your pants before maneuvering her into the right position. Unless [insert lightbulb]! You wear smart diapers around the house. Argh . . . it’s just too darn complicated. Underwear with built-in bidet it is . . .
Nobody’s running around screaming, “My eyes! My eyes!” in the comments yet so I’m assuming that’s not a link to something goatse or tubgirlish…but I’m still scared to click anything that has to do with wiping your ass.
“I’ve seen bathrooms, toilets in particular, in Japan that look like they belong on the Sparrowhawk.”
I’ll second that. The Japanese have some seriously advanced toilet technology. They practically need an instruction manual, but the things will do everything down to drying your bum for you afterward.
Vending machines too. I’m told you can rent a car from a vending machine at the major airports. I used one in Tokyo that would grill a passable burger or a good hot dog and serve it up to you on a warm bun in a minute or so. Had a little slot in the middle for putting your condiments on.
Products like these have been around for ages. I used to work with elderly and people afflicted with severe arthritis and an aid like this is greatly appreciated. It’s humiliating not to be able to clean oneself properly.
When we would do an initial screening of a client, we would inquire very specifically about their daily activities and level of functioning, so we could make recommendations for various aids, like this butt wiper thing. While most people are familiar with other assistive devices for the disabled (walkers, grab bars), few know about toileting devices. We would order them for clients and it was very gratifying to receive feedback on how something like this could make a difference in a person’s functioning and their attitude. We had some clients who were literally shut-ins because of personal hygiene issues, and an aid like this helped them to resume social activities.
We were constantly searching for a low-cost source for this type of item as it was expensive and some of our clients simply couldn’t afford it. Back then it wasn’t covered by Medicaid or Medicare (it may be now; I don’t know.)
I’m sure there are people out there who might have need of such a product, but who don’t know that it exists. These individuals might not have any other way to learn of the availability of such a product unless it is “mainstreamed” with TV ads like this.
Yeah, the infomercials are kind of uncomfortable to watch because one’s mind goes to fill in what the commercial doesn’t state explicitly. And the acting is over the top as it usually is with infomercials. But I would imagine there are people, like my former clients, who would greatly benefit from such an item which could improve their level of comfort and functioning and perhaps even their outlook.
But I’m sure you already knew all of this and it was just easier to make a dismissive comment.
If it saves just one person from having to power wash his cat scratching tree….
@5-I think it was the 1880’s that was mentioned.
Which of course, begs the question, what did people do before the invention of TP? Did people grow a specific type of plant that was good for wiping? Did you keep a bucket of old rags in the outhouse?
When I lived on a small rural farm in Nova Scotia as a kid, we had an outhouse as “backup”. No TP, just an old copy of the Simpson-Sears catalog. It served two purposes. Something to read and, well, you know.
Didn’t the Romans use a sponge on a stick? (a BC version of this)
I really want to see how this is listed on the actor’s resumes.
I had the same need when I saw the documentary on Hitler’s Secretary.
How the hell do you list something like this on your bona fides?
As I and my parents and siblings age, I’m more aware all the time of the adjustments that need to be made–things I’d never have thought of 20 years ago. Thanks for putting this in context.
The most objectionable part of the infomercial is the acting. But then, it’s an infomercial.
Oh, btw, none of us use this device. But it’s good to know it exists.
And AJ Shephard @20: If a play I once saw is right, corncobs.
“But I’m sure you already knew all of this and it was just easier to make a dismissive comment.”
Well, more to the point that I’m making the assumption that the intended reader is able-bodied (and possibly lazy). But point taken.
I think we need to close the toilet technology gap with Japan.
Also I am all for bidets being installed as regular fixtures.
“Never touch another dirty toilet tissue!” chirps the announcer.
And I am left wondering if they are planning a special extension for that time of month that will remove your tampon or your divacup. Because presumably the pre-menopause female users of such a device would still have THAT to contend with. And anybody who is getting the faints at the idea of touching OH NOES! toilet tissue is going to have an aneurysm over a tampon.
“Toilet paper is archaic,” she said as she popped a piece of toilet paper on the end of a stick. Well, I’m sold.
I can remember a message board I posted on nearly a decade ago locating a thread on an obesity-related message board about different techniques the obese denizens of that board used to wipe themselves. Of course, all of us (myself somewhat included) poked merciless fun at that thread, jerks that we were. But it seems to me that many of the people posting to that thread would have found this product to be a godsend.
I think what we’re really seeing here is the effect on the advertising industry of the obesity epidemic. Fact is, there’s more of a market for something like this now than there ever would have been in previous times. So now you’re seeing commercials whose target market is the morbidly obese, because the morbidly obese have become a significant demographic. It’s kind of sad that this is the state we’re in, but it is what it is.
Well, I have to say that the Comfort Wipe is a marked improvement over the original product, the Comfort Scoot – which was a piece of carpet you put on the floor and … uh, nevermind.
Personally, I’m holding out for the Black & Decker rechargeable version.
Don’t worry, the next ad will be for a portable bidet for use in public restrooms and when visiting friends. It’ll be real easy to use, just hang it on the sink and attach it to the faucet. Maybe not as much privacy as one might like, but clean is clean.
Thanks for the update, John. I was about to post about how right after I got home from my hip surgery (well, not RIGHT after…let’s just say I had no need for TP for a while because of the drugs), I had a LOT of trouble reaching. I was under restrictions about how I could move my hip, and it was on my right side, where the incision and bandage were, and it was really hard getting clean. I managed, ultimately, without a tool like this, but it probably would have been useful.
And btw, since I still had a healing incision, spraying water would have been disallowed too, so a bidet would not have helped.
The advertisement itself is deeply repellent, and it might well have turned me off getting one in favor of being stinky.
Joyce 21: Didn’t the Romans use a sponge on a stick? (a BC version of this)
You think of a sponge as a modern plastic device, but it’s made in imitation of the soft, fibrous skeleton of an actual sea creature. I didn’t know that history of Roman butt-wiping (though the history of Roman butt-wipes is well known; see Nero and Caligula), but they certainly would have had access to real sponges.
Dammit. Joyce 21 meant “a sponge on a stick is a BC version of this.” Of course it is. Sorry.
I work with (and live with) people with disabilities and there is always a copy of “New Mobility” or a Sammons Catalog around that are filled with ads for adaptive equipment. In New Mobility (the gimp mag for all the cool kids) there are probably five ads for bathroom aids for every one ad for a adaptive vehicle or wheelchair. There is all kinds of stuff like this. And I remember a nondisabled friend was over once and flipping through the mag and proclaiming, “Woah, you people live in a different world than I do.”
He was joking good naturedly, but I was kind of thinking, “oh, you just wait. You’ll get to that world, Almost everyone will get to that world.”
It seems that this product is marketed to exactly the people who need it for mobility aid type of reasons. Just because they don’t say, “Hey, you! Old, mangled disabled person! Can’t wipe your own ass? Have we got something for you! Everyone else who is normal? Ignore this!” Doesn’t mean they don’t know who their market is. Just the fact that they give away the tub handle thingy shows that. And if they can pick up a few germophobes as customers? Well, then all the better.
The truth is that adaptive mobility product marketers are finding that we don’t have to hide our need for their equipment in shame anymore. More and more advertising for adaptive living products is becoming more mainstream. As is exampled by things like the “hoveround” power chair or the catheter medical supply services and such. It is actually a very good thing, because many people, especially the elderly and their family members, are not aware that these types of things exist that could make their lives a whole lot easier, and many cannot afford (and don’t have the insurance) to find out about these things through a PT or OT. So mass marketing of adaptive equipment is a very good thing that helps a whole lot of people. And an even better marketing technique is what they’ve done here. Which is to not go out of their way to say this is a special product for special people, but (as is actually true for most adaptive equipment) this could help anyone. Maybe you are or you know someone who could be helped. No need to hide in shame about it.
I get the giggle factor you are going for, here, John. But it really is a marketing technique that is making it possible for lots of people to not only have access to tools that they wouldn’t know about, but also make it less shameful to need those tools.
All I have to say is “Being a big guy has its advantages”. WTF?!? I’m a big guy, and I honestly can’t think of one.
It sure is great buying my cloths at the Fat and Gawky store, let me tell you. And having to ask for a lap belt extender on an airplane, well that’s just a great conversation starter.
I was interested to see that one of the related videos at YouTube was James Taylor performing his song “Mexico”. Indicating, I suppose, that Montezuma continues to exact his revenge!
Seat belt extenders. I was on a small commuter jet once and was told I didn’t need one. Of course the seat belt didn’t fit. That’s when I found out that they didn’t have any because SOME of the seats had extra length seatbelts. But of course the flight attendant didn’t know WHICH seat. So they had to search and then rearrange some people.
Yeah, being oversized is such a hoot.
To Joyce @21 and Xopher @31:
This totally reminded me:
Years ago I read an article in some archaeological mag or another about the ancient Romans and their, er, bathroom habits. They did use a sponge on a stick. The public latrines were built with benches along each side (with lots of holes–quick service, no waiting, that kind of thing), and a channel of sorts along the center of the floor through which water was run. Do your business, rinse stick in water, done. One extra note in the article was about the possibility that some Romans–or others–might have used this stick contraption to kill themselves, either out of necessity or as a way to show how truly ashamed they were at whatever they’d done in life to lead them to suicide.
Let’s see, advantages of being euphemistically a “big guy” (I’m not so much a big guy as a short, fat guy, but you get the point):
If you sit on someone, they can’t move.
Nobody can drag you anywhere without your consent (or rather it’s much harder and takes stronger people).
When it’s REALLY cold out, you don’t get chilled as easily.
Hmm…that’s about it. Let’s do the math.
Personally I’d rather be able to sit on someone WITHOUT keeping them from moving. I’ll take the downside of being easy to carry in exchange for being better able to fight. I’ll give up being comfortable in cold weather in exchange for not being at continual risk of immediate death in hot weather.
OK, now we’ve netted out all the advantages of being fat (226 and 5’7″ as of this morning…second number unlikely to change). All the advantages of being thin are pure downside for being fat. THAT list I can go on with for some time. Off the top of my head: better health; better able to carry things up the stairs or around in an airport; luggage is smaller (yeah, smaller clothes are LESS CLOTH, who knew?); better balance (it’s really dramatic); possibility of getting laid again someday.
So yeah, I guess it does “have its advantages.” Just like walking with a cane gets you into the fast line at the airport and more people let you cross the street. NOT FUCKING WORTH IT.
Starting my diet/workout program this afternoon, thanks.
I’ve heard that some Japanese toilets not only spray, but play music and release air fresheners too. I think Obama might need to close the alarming toilet technology gap by having us all upgrade our toilets.
Why do I suspect that John might be trying to reposition himself with the recent spate of posts related to soiled asses. All I’ve got to say is, If you can’t stand the heat, you should’ve never taped bacon to the cat.
OK, we’ve had the informative, mature portion of the program. Thanks for the insight. That being said…
perhaps we should rename it
(insert rim shot here).
WARNING: Bidet is not to be used as water fountain.
From the comments:
“[Big guys] are harder to kidnap.”
So there you go.
And big guys are harder for a tornado to lift off the ground. Not by much, but hey, when you’ve got 300 mph winds whipping a herd of dairy cows around the barn, you’ll wish you’d had that extra slice of cake.
I’d like to believe that “iBrain-uBrain” transplants are coming soon, the ability to change your head around like Frankenstein’s monster, Zipperhead. From John Varley’s Steel Beach to John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, we’re closer to the body revolution than ever. I was actually researching leg lengthening last year in Beijing, France, Germany, and Serbia. You’d be surprised what’s going on at the very moment, people adding ten centimeters to their tibias and femurs . . blah, blah, blah. I drifted off track . . . Oh, yeah. North American should have the best public washrooms in the world, I think. But we don’t. We’re not even close . . .
This may be the next evolution of toilet technology, but this is nothing yet. Just wait until we finally start using the three seashells.
Being ‘large’ helps when moving furniture. There’s a limit, but being able to throw your weight around makes a big difference.
My mother is recovering from a stroke – she’s 85. She had a rotator cuff injury from fall from ten years ago even before the stroke.
She’s been causing toilet overflows at home because she need to use more toilet paper to manage. she found this deeply humiliating.
I fell and broke my wrist eight or nine years ago and had a cast on the hand I normally use to wipe that went down onto the hand around the thumb.
My husband had a broken wrist same issue.
Then had to have a bone graft taken from his hip and couldn’t bend.
He also had an angioplasty and they go in through the groin.
I’m really pretty seriously not finding this funny – I know about a lot of assistive devices, but nobody mentioned this.
John – I’m torn between being grateful you mentioned this and wondering exactly what you’ll do when someone close to you needs something like this.
We’re all temporarily abled. (and a lot of things are temporary – two or three or six months.)
Probably buy them a bidet to go along with the stick.
Needs a holster if you’re gonna use it in Texas, no conceal carry permit required!
WOW! But further to the what I want to know, “where do you find this stuff?” I mean, do you surf the web all day looking for these gems? If so, who’s really writing all those books? bwuahahaha
To the individual saying it’s not funny – the hell it’s not funny. The infomercial is over-the-top bad-acting bleach-my-eyeballs hilarious.
Also, poop is a taboo. Anything to do with poop = funny.
The product itself? The funny is the unmentionable kind of funny. It gets a chuckle or at least a grimace because *nobody* who can in fact reach their own ass wants to think about not being able to do so. Because nervous laughter is a natural human response to things that make us just a little uncomfortable – and a lot of things that make us laugh sure as hell aren’t fun, but equally sure as hell are funny.
I think there’s a concern that the laughter is directed at the losers who would need this product, not at the ridiculousness of the commercial or the taboo nature of pooping.
@53, Emily WK,
Even here on the wild Internet, I think it’s fair to say that while we might laugh at (or disapprove of, or whatever) the sort of person who comes to need this product for ridiculous reasons (i.e. OMG poop is icky keep it farther away from me) or reasons caused by a long pattern of poor choices (i.e. the 200KG+ crowd), I don’t think anyone’s insensitive enough to be laughing at people with arm or back injuries, or the elderly, or people in general who need the help for other reasons.
Another classic example of the absurdity that this site leads you too.
I love it. : P
Slate also words it nicely:
Wow. I think that’s totally silly in the abstract, but I totally could’ve used that during the last few months of pregnancy.
They should come in different colors for the family that needs more than one TP extender or to match bathroom decor!
Or better yet, how about TP extender charms! Pretty little rings with cute dangly charms that identify which extender belongs to a family member. Tickle your fancy (or behind) by accessorizing your extender!
Ahh, the marketing possibilities.
To Thena @ 52
I think that is the best shortest explanation I’ve read about why serious and uncomfortable things can be drop dead funny
Sportsblogger Joe Posnanski has a pretty funny take on this:
(Everyone sends Scalzi bacon links; to Posnanski, they send infomercials.)
Okay, maybe I’m missing something here, but why is the TP on the outside of the curve? To wipe along the crack, the handle is sticking out at a relatively large angle to the body, which seems like it requires a longer reach. It seems like it would work a lot better as an “extender” if the TP mounted on the inside of the curve, so you could hold it closer to the body and still follow the curvature of the butt. (Yes, I am an engineer, why do you ask?)
David AW @59 –
Heinlein planted the seed of the idea but I’ve been greenhousing it for awhile – the funniest jokes are nearly always the ones where something NOT FUNNY happens. “… told the paramedic what happened, and he laughed so hard he dropped the stretcher and that’s how I broke my arm.”
Even innocent jokes are often based around ambiguity or uncertainty – riddles, puns, other language play – and of course there’s the broad range of jokes based on crude stereotypes and/or violent behavior, and practical jokes / pranks of all stripes. The common thread in all the kinds of humor is that moment when we hesitate, grimace, and are glad it’s not happening to US.
It’s broad enough that when I hear a joke I find not at all funny, I start taking it apart looking for what the joker finds uncomfortable enough to be funny. But I’m a geek that way.
Umm… Is it just me, or is that thing CURVED THE WRONG WAY?!?!?! I think I’d have to be a contortionist with dislocatable shoulders to make that thing work…
Oops, Obi-wan (and probably others) beat me to it.
Yes, I was too lazy to read all the posts.
I wonder what you could do to bacon with that thing…
Additional data point for toilet paper alternatives: Rather than install a bidet, there’s a device you can install on your existing toilet that parents use who are cloth-diapering a baby. It’s basically a little hand-sprayer. I don’t see why that couldn’t be used on one’s posterior too, and I think it costs something like twenty to thirty bucks.
Oh wait, here we go. This one’s marketed specifically as a handheld bidet. Basically the same device.
Personally I go for Cottonelle wipes, but whatever. (W-T-M-I! Way too much! All the time!)