Over two weeks ago, before the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games began, I stumbled upon an article on the Washington Post titled “Journalists at Sochi are live-tweeting their hilarious and gross hotel experiences.” Now, “article” might be a bit of an overstatement; rather, it was a compilation of the Sochi journalists’ most popular, sarcastic or entertaining tweets regarding their Russian hotel accommodations.
It starts with a Twitter picture from CNN’s Harry Reekie, standing in front of a falling curtain rod.
His next tweet reads “CNN booked 11 rooms in one @Sochi2014 media hotel five months ago. We have been here for a day and only one room is available.”
The next few tweets continued in that fashion—journalists waiting on hotel rooms, journalists whining when they do get a hotel room, journalists sad that an elevator broke, journalists attempting to look on the “bright side” as they try to be grateful they have “a (single) bed at least…”
And I chuckled along as these privileged Westerners talked about their hotel rooms that were missing floors or hot water, and because they’re journalists, they were able to word these complaints in the best and most comical of ways. But when I got to a tweet from Greg Wyshynski (an editor of the Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo! Sports), I stopped laughing. It was a photo of a toilet (as many of the #SochiProblems tweets have been) and hanging on the wall beside the toilet was a sign reading in first Russian, then English: “Please do not flush toilet paper down the toilet! Put it in the bin provided.”
“People have asked me what surprised me the most here in Sochi. It’s this. Without question … it’s … THIS,” read Greg Wyshynski’s accompanying caption.
Suddenly, I didn’t find the tweets to be so comical, because the toilet paper in a bin situation is not the result of failed accommodations and it’s not the fault of an underprepared hotel; this is a way a lot of the world lives. And I’m not saying you cannot complain about a hotel missing a lobby floor and go ahead and comment on how the Sochi Olympics went far over-budget, but commenting on (and whining about) the septic situation is just ignorant.
I found the picture of the toilet on many other websites, and on these websites I actually made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments section.
Here’s the best (read “worst”) one I found: “If those knuckleheads make toilets that get clogged up with toilet paper, then it will serve them right if I clog the toilet. I don’t care if some plumber will have to unclog the toilet after me, maybe next time they will make better toilets!”
When I read that, all I could think of was my experience in Ecuador when I became introduced to toilet paper bins. The number one rule in Ecuador (after Don’t Drink the Water) was Do Not Flush the Toilet Paper. If you even try to, this whole mishap will happen wherein even the shower will start flooding and, from what I understood (I’m no engineer or plumber), it would be a total disaster. So, do I think it’s a good idea to rebel against the Sochi toilet signs? No. Not one percent. But I think it’s even worse of an idea for Western journalists to advertise their blatant ignorance towards something that is a part of the everyday life for much of the world, particularly the underdeveloped countries.
The next selection of tweets that struck my eye were by Stacy St. Clair of the Chicago Tribune. Her first tweet, “My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says, ‘do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous,’” was followed by a photo of the water (when it was, once again, working). The clear glasses were filled with a liquid that looked more like apple juice then water. I did laugh as Stacy St. Clair compared washing her face with Evian water to what it’s like to be a Kardashian, but I stopped laughing when I learned of the current water crisis in Russia.
According to Travelers Today, “Most Russians of course don’t drink water from the tap and those who do boil it because they couldn’t afford bottled water. Only around half of the Russian population had actual access to potable water.”
Additionally, even Vladimir Putin has confessed to not having clean running water in his house.
“Imagine, even me—rusty water comes from my pipes. Funny, huh? But it’s a fact. I’m ashamed to say it,” said Putin, last May, according to Travelers Today.
So while I understand that sometimes it’s easy to overlook the dignity of some for the sake of a funny tweet, it’s not really necessary or kind. And journalists, who are representing their respective countries as they share details of a worldwide event attempting to bring countries together, should perhaps abandon their funny ways (at least until the Olympics are over) and instead adopt a new motto: think before you tweet.