21 April 2005

Donde esta...?

Tuesday night we were entering a big chain department store, and I was relieved in more ways than one. It was a store that I knew right where the bathroom was, and I needed to use it. I thought how nice it is when you are out in public and you know where the facilities are.

Then I realized I'm about to embark on a journey where I will not know where one single toilet is. Not one. The first and only phrase one needs when traveling is the fateful, "Where is...(fill in the blank)? But most especially the bathroom, toilet, wc. By whatever name you call it, you need to use it. I found the challenge then is understanding the directions to the toilet spoken in a fast foreign language.

Ou est...quoi? In a small town in Belgium, my newly arrived friend and I were seeking a restroom in a restaurant where we had just eaten. I, thinking I was the more advanced in the language, tried to ask the nice lady the all important question. I was trying to be polite so I said, "Ou est la salle de bain?" She couldn't understand and kept saying no. I asked again and again. My newly arrived friend tried the word, "Toi-lette?" Ahhh, now the lady knew. Bascially, I was asking for a shower.

Donde esta el bano? And by the way what does it cost? In Belgium, where we were for two years, the public toilets cost. It wasn't an exorbitant amount, usually 20 or 25 cents, depending on the dollar's exchange rate. You always wanted to have some spare change on you. We're talking everywhere...McDonalds as well as nicer places like hotel lobbies. You paid to pee. A Madame Pepe was posted at each and every entry to collect the prerequisite change. If you were really lucky, she took a nasty looking rag in the stall and wiped the seat for you.

A friend and I, bored one day, added up the cost of peeing for a year. Considering Dar and I both peed outside the house a few times a week, we were spending $75 a year on bathroom visits.

So not only do I wonder, Donde esta el bano en Espana? But does it cost there?


  1. Wow, $75 a year? If that's the cost for a normal person, then I would have to budget at least twice that amount! Guess it's good I live in a country where toilets are free! (I do remember when I was younger having to pay at some gas stations.) Believe it or not, I heard some people say that they think bathrooms would be cleaner if we had to pay for them...was that the case in your experience?

  2. I have traveled on some interstates in the south and a couple of gas stations you had to pay $.50 to unlock the door. Even one rest area also had that kind of door. And, yes, they were clean. It must keep the stereotypical street people out?? I guess if you don't have any change, then head to the woods...that's the way we had to rough it moving up to Alaska!

  3. They were cleaner. Sometimes Madame PeePee would even take her disinfectant-soaked dishrag and mop up around you before you finished just to keep things spotless... (Is this the webring for toilet humor, or is that Shakedung and Sunrise?)

  4. If I were you, I would always try to go to the bathroom at home before I went anywhere. I would avoid drinking water when I was out if I had to pay to pee.

  5. Water also has a significant cost - expect $3-4 (2-3 euro) per half liter bottle. One benefit - dehydrated bodies don't make urine.