On Toilets

img_1690Okay okay, so when traveling you are almost guaranteed to need to use the “facilities” sometime when it is extremely inconvenient. If it’s an emergency you may be at the mercy of whatever passes for a toilet near at hand. Using the toilet when traveling can be a harrowing experience. I remember when I was eighteen and went on a ten day excursion to China being introduced to their system of rating bathrooms with stars; five star, four star, etc. Not only that, but their standards of what constitutes a five star rating. Coming from the US when I think of a five star rating I think luxury hotel or fancy restaurant. In China the five stars appear to represent a shiny bit of metal framing the hole in the ground that is the toilet, and a trash can next to it for your “used” toilet paper to boot! Sometime you might even be provided with the toilet paper! If not, you had better hope that your friend remember to bring some, or at least have a packet of tissues to hand. I think I blocked the memory of the some two or three star toilets from my brain.

During my semester abroad in Botswana, Africa a friend got food poisoning when her host family in the week-long village stay (the rest of the time we stayed in dorms on campus) didn’t wash their hands after using the outhouse. In the middle of the night, when faced with the onset of violent diarrhea, poor Diana was faced with the choice of using the bucket in her room or tripping the house alarm on her way outside to use the outhouse. That is, tripping the house alarm AND being greeted by dozens of cockroaches scurrying away from her flashlight in the outhouse.

Much more recently I was visiting with some friends who had come to my hometown and had booked a room at a very upscale hotel. The theme was concrete and the design scheme was very industrial. The room embraced the “open concept” theme so completely that the bathroom had a sliding barn door and the walls did not go all the way up to the ceiling. If someone needed to drop of deuce or go number one everyone was well aware. Awkward.

I travel on a budget and get away with staying with friends, family members, or in hostels, so I haven’t spent much time in fancy hotels (or even regularly priced hotels) but I’ve seen photos of fabulous bathrooms on various destination blogs. One can usually escape scarily local bathrooms by holding it until they return to their hotel refuge. To those who rough it, I say cheers to you! Cheers to you for remembering to bring your hand sanitizer! Cheers to you for throwing a spare roll out TP or a packet of tissues in your bag! And cheers to you for getting a load off your mind and living to tell the tale!


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