The Search for the Perfect Washroom Watering Can

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The watering canAh, the venerable watering can.  What is simply used for watering plants in the greater part of America is used for so much more in a Muslim home.The watering canAh, the venerable watering can.

What is simply used for watering plants in the greater part of America is used for so much more in a Muslim home. 

Watering cans especially come in handy after using the toilet—Muslims can’t pray or touch the Qur’an if they haven’t purified themselves after doing their business.  Water just happens to be the best thing for getting clean.

Every Muslim seems to have a watering can in their washroom.  Walk in, sit yourself down on the toilet, and you’re sure to see a small loveable can nearby, either already filled with water or waiting to be filled.  Bliss.

But how does one get a can?  What is the buying process?  And how does one find that tantalizing blend between finding a can large enough to hold plenty of water and still small enough that it doesn’t look like the owner has wudhu problems?

I learned the hard way a few weeks ago that buying a watering can is harder then it looks,  when I visited Dearborn, MI, on business.

Being travelers, my wife and I were in need of something that would be easy to keep with us on the road but still large enough to get the job done.  We decided to hit the shops to see what was available.

Walking into some of the Arab stores, we found that most of the jugs were too big.  Looming over accompanying merchandise, these things looked like they could wash an elephant. 

There were some smaller containers, but these were so ornate that we weren’t sure if they were used for lavatories or for those great Arab tea gatherings.  We moved on.

Desperate for a watering can and feeling that time was growing short before I had to relieve myself, we left the stores and went to a local Islamic center to pray.

Entering the washrooms, I was impressed that they were actually clean.  I’ve visited many centers and have generally been nonplussed to find that they are squalid places where not even vermin would want to enter.

Sneaking a peek into the stalls, I saw that each commode was accompanied by a little squirt gun rigged to a pipe in the wall that while easy to handle would always be sure to have enough water.  Pretty rad.

But unless we could come to this center every time we had to use the toilet while in Dearborn, we were going to have problems. 

My wife suggested that we visit one of the large department stores on Ford Road.  There was a Target, perhaps it had a gardening section with cans?  So that’s where we went.

Going into this Target, we were blown away by how many Muslims there were there.  Not working.  Shopping.  Lots of ladies in headscarves with their husbands in tow were in this place although nobody seemed to have a watering can.

And that’s when my sensibilities hit me. 

I’m someone who’s embarrassed to even carry toilet paper.  But carry a watering can in front of others?  For me, watering cans are things that are necessary, but they must never be seen in public.

My wife thought this was all silly. 

“Suck it up and be a man” was her tone when she told me that “there’s nothing wrong with carrying a watering can.  It’s not as if other people’s cans magically appeared in their washrooms.  They had to buy them too.”  Sniveling, I followed her down the aisles.

I tried to seem nonchalant as we roamed the store, finally making it to the gardening department. 

Happily, there was an assortment of watering cans there that were very nice.  They even had lines on the outside to mark how full they were.  I forgot about my bashfulness and became excited.

We settled on a blue plastic watering can.  Relieved, I turned to go.

And that’s when I froze.  It seemed every single aisle in the store had a Muslim in it! 

Surely we would have to play hardball if we were going to get out of this store–without being seen carrying our precious can.  My wife and I started to walk through the store, looking for a way to the cash registers. 

As we sneaked our way to the front, we came face-to-face with a Muslim lady who I imagined was subtly smirking at our can.  Making an about face, I jogged down the way we had just come and turned a corner.

Moving more quickly now, I saw someone else heading our way.  “Turn right!” I fairly roared at my wife as she struggled to keep up.  “Faster!”

As we sprinted down the home stretch, my wife holding the can behind her so that others wouldn’t see it, we came up on the register. 

Thank goodness!  The other people in line seemed busy attending to their children or staring into space.  All we had to do now was pay for our stuff and we would be done.

Pulling out my card to pay, I gave the cashier the watering can.  Hopefully in a minute we would get out of here, our can wrapped in a plastic bag and we could breathe easy, not having had the indignity of facing any Muslims who, I thought, would surely be thinking how immodest we were.

“Salaamun ‘alaikum” said the cashier.  “Is this all?”

“Oh no!” I wanted to shout.  “She’s a Muslim too!”

But it seemed as if the cashier was bored.  “Um … yeah,” I told her. 

A few moments later we were done and out of the store, tightly grasping our new watering can in its plastic bag, my wife laughing at all the fuss we had gone through.

So was it a good experience?  Sure it was.  I learned not to stereotype what Muslims look like and not worry too much about what others think as well. 

But I still don’t think I ever want to buy a watering can again.

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