Thursday, November 16, 2006

I don’t think it’s possible to be any more Okie-fied than this.

The first picture I took when I went to Italy this summer was of the toilet in my hotel bathroom. Silly, but true. To be honest after my two week tour of Italy I actually considered writing a book called “Touring the Toilet” or something like that. I was fascinated with the toilets in Italy.

It wasn’t the bidet so much, I was expecting those. The toilets in Italy came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, not just your boring typical oval shape we have here. But more importantly, none of them have the flusher in the same place. I would have said the “handle” but frequently they do not have handles. They have buttons. Or a string to pull. Or pedal to stomp on. It was a mystery every time I went to the bathroom. There were times I started flapping my arms and saying “open sesame” trying to figure it out. It was like a never ending game of "Button, button, who's got the button?" I learned quickly to assess the situation BEFORE taking a seat.

Behind this toilet there was a large rectangular plastic thing. It looked very much like the paper seat cover holders we have here. I stared at it for long time trying to figure out where the paper came out. I finally figured out that the plastic thing on the wall was the flusher. It consisted of two buttons. One was larger and the other. Further investigation revealed that more water was flushed when I pushed the bigger button, you know, for larger loads if you will, and the smaller button released a smaller amount of water. Brilliant! Those Italians really know how to conserve water!

They also know how to conserve paper apparently because up and down the country I found nary a paper seat cover. At first it bothered me, but then I realized that was nothing. I was lucky to even have a seat. A lot of places didn’t have anything to sit down on. Not that I was planning on getting all cozy on public toilet, but it is nice to at least have something to prop up against. I don’t know about you, but my aim isn’t that great when I’m trying to squat and hold myself steady for the duration.

You frequently have to pay to pee in Italy. A lot of places have a cranky looking old woman sitting beside the door with a basket full of coins. (What a crappy job!) You are expected to drop some coins into the basket or else. Or else what, I wondered, but I never dared to try and find out.

The Italians make up for what they lack in their toilets by providing you with complete privacy. Nearly every stall I went into was a little room unto itself. No half doors with people peeking underneath. It’s a good thing too since I had to get into some pretty strange positions a few times.

The strangest position I got into however was when I went into the men’s room by mistake. We had been traveling for hours heading toward Sorrento. There was a toilet on the tour bus, but it had already been a week and nobody had used it, so I sure wasn’t going to be the first one to christen it. I was trying to be healthy and stay hydrated, but I had consumed several bottles of water and they were coming back to haunt me. I had to pee so bad I was in pain and I nearly started crying. When we finally pulled over I was the first one off the bus. I heard the tour director saying something about to the right and downstairs, so that was where I headed. When I got downstairs, I spotted a toilet in it’s own little room and I made a dash for it. I cannot describe to you the joy I felt when I finally made it to that toilet.

When I emerged from my stall 15 minutes later, I thought something seemed funny when I saw several men standing in front of urinals. About that time, one of them turned around and said, “Hey, what are you doing in here?”

The roar of laughter followed me as I ran back up the stairs.