The stench greeted me before the ungodly sight did. Putrid. Sour. Damp. Incubated in peeling cement walls under an unforgiving sun. I paused outside the public toilets for a moment and watched the flies buzz inside. Was it an emergency? Could I hold it? And could I endure the odd glances I would get breaking down with the pee-pee dance if the situation became serious? I looked behind me. The crowded clamour of impatiently waiting travellers ricocheted across the seating area of the bus station. German, Spanish, Greek, American. Regardless, we were all united in sweaty misery, not entirely sure of the reason for the delayed bus departure, but all vying with each other for shade, reshuffling baggage, anxious lest the next bus departed without fair warning.
I had abandoned my place in the cluster and queue, and manoeuvred clumsily around irritable would-be passengers, over bubble-gum stained concrete towards the facilities.
What I encountered next was nothing less than foul. It was possibly the most disgusting toilet experience I’ve ever had in my life – and that includes times I’ve accidentally peed on myself. Inside the restroom were standing urinals – porcelain ridged foot pads, pee-spattered and grimy, on either side of a tennis ball sized black hole in the ground – and that’s all! No handles, no seats, no nothing. Toilet paper? Please.
I thought for sure I was in the men’s room, and I checked the outside sign no less than three times. I scrutinized the man/woman symbols fastened above the doorways. Yup, there was a stick person in a dress above my doorway, and a little boy hopped out of the doorway to my right. I had no choice. Tip-toeing in on my flip-flops (although I’m not sure what this accomplished) I entered the stall, only touching the door and handles with the tips of my fingers. I looked up – no spiders. I scanned the ground – only puddles. Sticking my sunglasses firmly in my mouth, I then carefully adjusted my shoulder bag. I’d willed myself past germy walls, and avoided dropping belongings onto a swampy floor, now all I had to do was not splash myself. I let out a slow breath, (and inhaling very little), assumed the position.
Several long seconds later, the discommodious ordeal was over. Feeling a strange mixture of success and revulsion, I carefully left the stall the same way I’d entered – with little touching and much tiptoeing. It was then I saw that toilet paper was provided. A ream was spooled by the main door. Too late – I had already air dried.
The wash basin was directly next to the open door, which was propped wide open. The entire lounge was reflected in the mirror, and the hundreds awaiting a bus had a view into the women’s toilets as I stood there soaping up my hands – all the sweaty men with dirty bags and overtired women could see right in.
Yup, I thought to them, I just peed standing.