the customs of the country

so my son joseph and i were at an airport.  we were at the gate and i realized that it was going to be a full airplane.  i grew up with mrs. patrick who always made me go to the bathroom before a trip.  even if the trip was to the grocery store.  she would have made me go twice for a trip across a continent.

in the ladies’ room, the women wore white cotton modest dresses, scarves and sandals.  one woman stood at the sinks and she filled what looked like a five gallon gasoline container with water from a hose attached to the wall. she poured a little of the water on the feet of the women who used the stalls as they came to the sink to wash their hands.  she occasionally added a little bleach to the water.  the floor was slick and slippery.  it took me several minutes of standing in what i thought was a line for the next available stall before i realized i was not in such a line because there was no line.  groups of women surrounded a door, made sure that every gal in their group took her turn, and then the stall was turned over to another group.  i have no idea what nerve i possessed to slip into a stall just as a regime change was being negotiated.

the floor of the stall was covered with water and in the middle of the floor was a hole.  i was stymied.  in deference to what i understood about the customs of the country, i had worn a pair of pants under my full length skirt.  i couldn’t figure out how to get out of my pants and squat over the hole without getting water all over my feet, my pants or my skirt.  and there was no counter to put my carhartts bag.  and what was i supposed to do with the hose that came out of the wall behind the hole in the floor?

that’s when i decided that airplane lavatories are actually quite spacious, clean, airy, and i will never, ever complain about a forest preserve port-a-potty again!

i left the stall but decided i should wash my hands.  the lady with the bleach water approached me.  i thought “black fabric–bleach–bad combination–even if she is a professional”  and also  i didn’t want to risk slipping and falling. 

there are a few things i have learned as a world traveler and here is one:  baby wipes are not just for babies.

“everything all right?” joseph asked when i rejoined him. 

“yeah, but maybe a little different,”  i said.

“hole in the floor?”  he asked. 

i nodded.

“i wondered when you were going to run into that,”  he said.  “and no, i’m not going to tell you about the men’s bathroom.”


5 responses to “the customs of the country

  • M.A.Del Rosario

    I remember potties like that when I was young. It’s usually in the provinces here that they have it. Nice to know you survived one of those.

    • arlynnpresser

      mark, i hope you’re feeling better!!!! this is a great time to make your family wait on you! i write to you from germany and just yesterday i was in an airport bathroom in vienna and was completely stymied. every country, every province, every place has its own way of doing things and boy, i have learned this year to be tolerant and patient with the folks that visit my little parcel of the world!

      which reminds me, when are you guys visiting chicago?

  • Bonnie

    Been there, done that. If you want to really appreciate what we have in the way of gas station bathrooms, try one in Africa!! Many places around the world, if they do have flush toilets and t.p., will have a receptical next to the toilet for the paper because their waste water systems can’t handle the paper. I’m wondering what I’ll encounter as I leave in 14 hours for my trip to India.

    Blessings to you.

  • arlynnpresserarlynn

    bonnie i understand i am just missing you–leaving india just as you arrive. if you’re in mumbai, i have two friends who are your “backup” friends for having a dinner out for some fun. and i have just 59 days left on this resolution and i’m thinking spa package.

    and yes, i have now had every possible ladies’ room experience imaginable. i am baffled at every turn. nine countries in nine days. i’m still a week away from being home. . . .

    blessings on to you and great peace!

  • Sigga

    Erica Jongs Fear of Flying starts with a really good run down of toilets around the world. It is a little dated – but still mostly correct!

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