Monday, January 28, 2008

One From the Road: Crappy Crapper Redux

Am I really talking about public bathrooms again? At this rate I may as well just commit myself to exploring this niche to the extent it so thoroughly deserves, and finally settle on a name and blog layout that I’m happy with...

So where was I? Bulgaria, actually. This story isn’t quite as epic a tale as the last in the series, but I hope you paid attention to the character development. (Cheat sheet: my father doesn’t like to be prepared on holidays, so spontaneity is the name of the game).

Last August, my two younger brothers and I decided that we would like to accompany our father in a visit to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. After three days, we grew weary of wandering around the immensity of the city (novel as it was to play charades when negotiating nourishment from waiting staff) and we upped and left to Sunny Beach – an atrociously soulless tourist spot, akin to the Canary Islands.

Sunny Beach, which not only has an awful name, is also located an awfully long way away from where we were located. For some reason, we decided the best course of action was to hire a taxi to drive us the 360km to where we wanted to be. As much as I’d love to make this entry about the hilarity that ensued as this inept driver got us lost 150km in the wrong direction, stopped to defecate at the side of a busy (not to mention dusty) road, and the non-conversations we had with him through wild gesticulations and half-comprehensions, I feel I should keep to the theme.

Considering the magnitude of the voyage, Sunny Beach was a huge letdown. It was overrun by poor interpretations of Irish Pubs, and brimmed with beer bellied Brits who found the most efficient means of trans-cultural communication to be raising one’s voice. Since none of our party was interested in any whistle-wetting, we were only too happy to bugger off two days later. The only problem with this was securing a means of locomotion that would get us home in time for our flight from Sofia, which lay about 6 hours to the east.

In the end, we settled for hopping on a bus at 1am or so, in the hopes of sleeping until we got to where we needed to be. Getting to sleep was difficult, if not impossible, thanks to the sheer heat of the bus. Amazingly, the broken air-conditioning made enough noise so as to keep a person awake, while offering no cooling comfort whatsoever. About two hours into the journey, my 16 year old brother took off his t-shirt and lay slumped in the chair topless. I laughed at him. An hour later I joined him. Fifteen minutes later my father joined us. Must have been quite a sight; three crazy shirtless foreigners in the back row, arranged in order of chest-hair prominence.

So where does the eponymous toilet come in, the more impatient readers ask? At about 4am sometime, maybe later, the bus pulls into a really dodgy looking rest-stop, and everyone files out. We begrudgingly clothed ourselves and ventured outside into the refreshing cold night air. Despite how late it was, the rest stop were serving food and drinks, and there were a few kids playing around in the house that this makeshift cafe was attached to. It seemed quite perverse.

The pitifulness of my bladder has been well established by now, so it’s almost needless to say that my first order of business was to find a suitable venue to purge my piss.

Having learnt from past experience, I was equipped with sufficient amounts of the local currency to deal with even the most burdensome of bathroom invigilators. Staggeringly enough, there was one present after 4 in the morning! How much money is there to be made from charging people for their excretory needs, I wonder? Regardless, the results of the premium I paid for such a privilege are perplexing.

That is a toilet. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you; that bowl is set into the floor. It’s not a misplaced shower-basin either; all of the other stalls were the same! Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t capture the local species of creepy-crawlies that reside in and around the bathroom prefab (to date, I’ve yet to see a bigger millipede)!

The most entertaining part of this story for me, on personal level, is my father’s reaction to my account of one of the more unique toilets I’ve encountered in my day. He decided he had to see it for himself, and so he bounded past the bathroom attendant. When she barked at him, seeking remuneration, he turned, shrugged at her, and continued on his mission.

Cheeky bastard.


cait k. said...

blogging about toilets you encounter while abroad seems like a perfectly acceptable topic to me. personally, i never knew how interesting bathrooms could be until i was on your side of the pond this past summer. the varying degrees of lavatories is a truly fascinating subject. keep it up!!

Heelan said...

bloody hell don't encourage him! He's enthusiastic enough about toilet architecture as it is.