Saturday, February 2, 2008

The thing about traveling

Is that you never know just what you are going to encounter. Sometimes it is the highlights you remember, and sometimes it is the lowlights.

Years ago Jay and I took my parents, in Israel for a visit, down to Jordan to visit Petra and Wadi Rum. We engaged a private guide who took us on the most wonderful adventures, the kind of trip that you remember for a lifetime. Everything went perfectly. He had us hike to Petra through a deserted back entrance, not a tourist in sight, coming upon the city just as the setting sun turned it to gold. We had tea in the desert with some of his Bedouin friends, who even went so far as to make up my mother and me with traditional Bedouin makeup. We finally ended with a picnic in the desert and then it was time to head for the border and return home.

En route, we stopped at a roadside stand for a icy cold cold lukewarm drink. Never ones to miss an opportunity for a pitstop, after finishing our drinks my mother and I headed around the back of the building looking for a bathroom. We found what may very well have been the very foulest outhouse on the face of the planet. I'd have preferred to just go behind a bush, but unfortunately tall bushes are in a bit of a short supply in the middle of the desert, so it was this vile hole in the floor or nothing, and we had a long way yet to travel. To make matters worse, the signs on the doors were only in Arabic. Which door to choose? In desperation, we finally split up, one going one way and one the other, determined to get in and out quickly enough that we wouldn't have to draw a breath inside.

When we finally made it back across to the Israeli side of the border, I was in a big hurry to get to a clean toilet. Unfortunately, that was the day the security people chose to train new employees. I stood there dancing from foot to foot as the woman asked her trainee "look at that shape, what does it look like to you? How about that one? What about the square one?" The trainee was having terrible trouble with the square shape and my situation was becoming increasingly desperate. After three fumbled attempts by the trainee, I couldn't take it anymore. I finally yelled to her "it's a soapdish! A damn soapdish! Now can you FINALLY let me through so I can get to the freaking bathroom already???" Needless to say her trainer was less than amused, but she finally stopped glaring long enough to let me through.

Yes, all the glory of Petra, the magesty of Wadi Rum, and it's the bathrooms that stand out the most in my memory. I'm nothing if not sophisticated.

25 comments:

Just Jen said...

ROFL....I'm in stitches. I know it wasn't funny for you but it is funny....
The worse bathroom I ever used was a tim horton's on the hwy. It was the only one for another hour and a half and considering I was already cramped, in a snow storm, and had been stuck in a traffic jam from a car accident for an hour, I had no choice. I couldn't even jump out the car and make a run for the bush because it was bumper to bumper and no bushes of any kind circled our traffic jam spot. I am telling you, it was so bad that I couldn't even stand on the toilet. I seriously considered going in the sink! Mind you what your story brings, is a much more foul bathroom! I would have it went beside it...:D....tough on all the stares and humiliation! Naw, just kiddin' probably would have done the same as you and yelled over a soap dish an hour later! Don't you just love the border? hehe

myrtle beached whale said...

There is nothing more foul than a public toilet. Only as a last resort.

Nancy said...

This is so funny! (sorry)

True though, in the best of times, it's always the blip-in-the-screen moment that seems to overshadow.

keith hillman said...

Really funny! A great read

Suprina said...

I loved this post.
There is something over for you on my blog...and probably something that migh suprise you....I don't know...LOL

The Literary Prostitute said...

And my husband wonders why I never use public restrooms. Love the way you handled the trainer - sounds like something I would do.

Maddy said...

Well.....if we're swapping stories....I have several, but I'll stick to the one that I found most odd.

Posho restaurant in Plymouth [England] nip off to the loo between courses, step into the 'ladies' to see two toilets side by side in one room. Whilst I am used to having 'company' when I use the loo at home, I don't think I would be very comfortable sharing with a stranger.
Cheers

Robin said...

Oh wow, that is completely bizarre.

tumblewords said...

Laughing. Kinda. The worst part of all this is that humans are creating these very messiest places... Great read! Maybe we need to start taking bushes with us!

Heidi @ GGIP said...

That sounds like an amazing experience you had. I am not one for going into uncomfortable situations.

Anyhow, Hi! I'm around visiting the blogs of people who entered my contest. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you feel welcome to visit again anytime.

Mrs. W said...

Hilarious!

Doesn't life just seem to boil down to bathroom issues?

Redness said...

Fantastic story - when I started I thought you were using an old prompt but you got me in and when least expected I almost choked ... very, very funny and way too thought provoking! Thank YOU as always!

Lilibeth said...

Ha. Ha. Well done, traveler. Petra sounds fantastic, but the restroom, well yuk.
The most unusual one I ever used was a three-walled row of outhouses on the side of Mt. Popocatepetl close to Puebla, Mexico.
I was 12 years old. It was early in the morning before our hike. We had spent the night in a freezing cold lodge. We sat on the "bench" with a wall in back and a wall on either side. The front had no walls, only a panoramic view of the valley below. Some day I'll blog about that trip. I had completely forgotten about it until I read this great piece of writing. Thanks.

paisley said...

eeeewwww... i know had i been you i would have latched onto the same disgusting memory.......

Herb Urban said...

Oh man, do I love a good outhouse story. This was quite choice.

Squatting over a hole in the ground in China is a personal favorite of mine. I have always detested public restrooms, even after mastering the hover stance.

susiej.com said...

I can hold it -- as long as I need to. But sometimes when I have to take my kids in the Public bathroom, I almost gag in there!! your story brought back this vivid memory!

Fourier Analyst said...

Hi Robin, Haven't been here for a while and am just catching up. I'll be working my way from the last post I read from you, but couldn't resist commenting here first! When my Mom first came to visit me in Europe we toured around London and Paris and it seemed for every famous location we had to make a pit stop! It is amazing the differences in cultures that you learn about from their toilets!! Not funny at the time, but makes for a great story to tell later on!

Robin said...

Welcome back FA, it's great to see you.

I remember reading a quote once about how Europeans build cathedrals and Americans build bathrooms LOL.

anthonynorth said...

I bet they don't mention THAT in the tourist guide :-)

Jo said...

Ugh, you have my sympathy....my worst ever having to go was in Nepal where a stinking hole in the ground made me wretch.....but I lived to tell the tale :)

Linda Jacobs said...

Well written and funny!

gautami tripathy said...

I avoid public toilets. I have a fetish for not touching anything in a public bathroom.

GreenishLady said...

Odd... a couple of (male) friends just returned from touring Jordan, and they mentioned the modern facilities they found at Petra! I'm thinking about portaloos at rock-concerts in days gone by. Oh, my, oh my!

Robin said...

I don't remember the facilities at Petra itself. This was a roadside stand in the middle of nowhere and believe me, the portaloo would have fit right in at Buckingham Palace compared to this thing LOL.

Lis Garrett said...

HAHAHAHAHA!!! Oh public potties . . . how I loathe thee. Years ago, my husband and I were traveling along the highway between Binghamton and Corning, New York when the car just stopped. It was a 2-lane highway. On one side of us was a rocky cliff; on the other, a steep embankment leading down to a raging river. Needless to say, I had to go to the bathroom ever-so-badly, and it would be at least an hour before my FIL could get to us. Oh.My.Goodness. I truly thought I was going to wet my pants. I was almost in tears! At that point, I think I would have gladly taken even the foulest toilet. LOL!