Times When Christine Really, REALLY Had to Pee (A Trilogy); Part I
(This is part one in a three-part series detailing in mind-numbing depth three separate occasions where I, Christine, had to pee very, very badly and managed to inconvenience strangers and family alike)(Oh! I just thought of another...perhaps this shall be a tetralogy).
Picture it, Madrid 1997 (prize of nothing given to whomever gets that reference). It was well after dark and I had just arrived in Madrid. As I exited the train I managed to get myself robbed; I freaked out for a few minutes wondering what I was going to do without cash, credit cards, or the map to the hostel at which I had a reservation. I sort of remembered where the hostel was relative to the train station, so I started walking. Pretty soon I was lost and wandering around a poorly lit warehouse district (yes, not creepy at all). Eventually I stumbled upon my hostel; it was 11 pm at this point, way past their curfew.
As I rang the doorbell of the hostel, I tried to convince myself that the owners would take pity on me; I was a girl traveling alone who had been robbed in their beautiful city. They would understand why I was late and would be okay with the fact that I didn't have my credit card with me; they would take me in, perhaps give me some tea and a warm rag to wipe off my dirty, tear-stained face, console me, and do all they could to help this scared girl.
I had to beg them to let me in; I started thinking that perhaps I should have taken my chances with the two slimy American guys who had "felt sorry for me" and offered to buy me "some beers" and let me "stay with them." I pleaded over the intercom and explained my story and after many protestations they let me in. Then they wanted payment. Up front. Now. "They took my wallet; if I can call American Express they will wire you the money from my bank account in the morning," I explained. "I just need to make one phone call."
"No. Phonecalls are not allowed after 8pm. It disturbs our guests."
I was beyond on the verge of tears. Ultimately they capitulated; I called AMEX as the two owners of the hostel sat five feet from me sighing and coughing and rolling their eyes. Finally, they got confirmation of their payment and I got to retreat to my room. I have little memory of going to bed, just the recall of a vague uneasiness all night.
In the morning I decided to high-tail it out of Madrid. I had wanted to go to the The Prado, but I was so freaking jittery I needed to get out of a humongous city and into a more manageable small-scale situation where I'd feel safer.
Thus Toledo it was. Less than an hour south of Madrid and home of El Greco, Toledo had been on my itinerary anyway...I was just bumping up my visit.
After leaving my hostel, I ran into a shop and grabbed some bread and a one and a half liter bottle of water. I hadn't eaten since I left Barcelona so I was famished. And thirsty (AHA! YES! Where the pee part of the story starts). I chugged the water and ate the bread as I ran to the station.
Once I arrived, I bought my ticket and located my platform. I had less than ten minutes before the train left...I was starting to feel the urge, but the closest lavatory was a bit of a sprint away. Could I hold off until the train was out of the station to hit the john (in case it was a Hopper Toilet that just dumps onto the tracks)? Yeah, I could make it; I didn't want to risk going to the bathroom then and having the train leave without me.
So, I hopped on the train and wiggled in my seat as I wait for us to exit the station...and when the time came I made my way to the back of the car, full of that feeling that relief combined with urgency that comes as you know are finally going to go.
Nothing. No bathrooms.
I zipped out of that car into the next, and then the one behind it, all the way to the end of the train. Nada. I worked my way back to the front of the train...no bathrooms anywhere. I went back to my seat, wondering what the hell I was going to do? I'd been traveling around Europe for well over two months at this point and I had never encountered a train that didn't have bathrooms. It hadn't occurred to me that this could be a possibility.
The conductor came by and I asked/mimed him how long until we arrived in Toledo. He pulled out a map; we weren't even a quarter of a way there. I was screwed; there was NO way I was going to make it. I tried to explain this to him; he wasn't getting my broken Spanish, my fairly good French, my English. So I used the international symbol for having to piss in the worst way: I locked my knees together, grabbed my crotch, and bulged out my eyes.
He got it. He put a sympathetic hand on my arm; once again showed me the map, pointed to his watch...NOW...pointed to the map, pointed to his watch again to show me the time lapse until we arrived in Toledo. Another half hour at least. There wasn't much between where we were and here; no other cities, no other stops. "Gracias" I said with a smile I plastered on my face. I knew I wouldn't make it.
I hummed, bounced, and squirmed. The minutes elapsed as the crop fields passed by my window. The motion of the train only seems to serve to swoosh the urine around in my bladder; waves of pee knocking against my urethra. I sat on my heal, hoping it would somehow act as a cork. I assessed the seat in which I was sitting; a bowl-shaped resin type thing. I *might* hold *some* pee, at least prevent it from sloshing onto the floor. I wondered what I could pull out of my backpack that would be sufficiently absorbent. Not only did I consider that, I actually thought it would come to that.
Suddenly, in the middle of what seemed like endless feilds, the train came to an unexpected stop. Outside my car there was a little platform, a dock only as long as my car and half the one before it and after it. There were two little buildings on it; the large one had a window covered by shutters. "Great," I thought. "This will help my situation - a delay."
Then right outside of my very window the conductor's face popped up. He waved for me to come down! Come down! He pointed to the little building, and to my extreme joy I saw those wonderful silhouettes of a male and female. BATHROOMS! I looked back at the conductor and he had backed away from the train, continuing to beckon me to detrain. So I did. And I RAN towards those bathrooms, carrying my huge backpack on my back.
"HEY!" I heard. I turned around and the conductor threw a key on a stick to me; I caught it, chucked my backpack to the ground and fumbled my way into the bathroom.
It seemed forever long, that pee. I realized as I was in there that someone could be grabbing my backpack and hopping on the departing train. It's worth it, I thought.
But I didn't hear anyone shuffling away with my bag, and I didn't hear the train chug away. I exited the bathroom, handed the smiling conductor the key and thanked him in as many languages as I thought we might have in common, but mostly with "Gracias, gracias, gracias." He stopped the train for me, a girl who didn't know better than to not guzzle a liter of water before boarding.
I picked up my backpack and as I headed towards my car I thought of how I had discovered a new Walk of Shame. The Ugly American who inconvenienced a train full of people; maybe made some late for work, or for getting home to their families, or disrupted their day's activites because I hadn't bothered to do my homework.
But then I heard a funny noise;I looked up, and out of each train car window were as many heads as could fit through; they were clapping, smiling, and waving.
Within twelve hours I'd experienced some of the worst and some of the best we as humans had to offer each other.