Traveling Abroad? You Better Know Your $#!^!
Contained in the following paragraphs is my sagely advice gathered from 35 years of traveling all over the world in my current job, with the military, and on several vacations. If you’re interested in help with a check list, we’ll, this isn’t the article for you.What I can offer is the only thing you’ll really need besides a valid passport and perhaps a visa. Anything you forget on the kitchen table you can buy at your destination, or something relatively similar. This critical advice you can’t pack in a bag.
The bottom line? Knowing your $#!^ before you have to take one. No joke! There is no moment in a foreign country filled with more anxiety than the first time you saddle up to the commode. And depending on the country, the second, third, and fourth times can be as equally harrowing! As you can guess, yours truly, being of the male species, won’t take my own advice. Which is… GO TO YOU TUBE, ya big dummy!
If You Tube existed back in 1983 when I ventured to China, I may have known my posterior would be precariously perched over a smelly hole in the floor with two painted foot prints straddling the target ensuring pin point accuracy. These outlines were certainly not measured for western folk as they were much, much too narrow. Perhaps the clue appeared moments before while I was taking pictures of locals comfortably crouched like Johnny Bench behind the plate, happily smoking and chatting about the weather, politics or the screaming hot spices in the local Szechwan noodle shop. No way could I assume the position without a lifeline to hang onto, no way. The savvy traveler would have started prepping his knees months before for this agonizing squat. This, my friends, was my first painfully anxious experience into the world of international toilet protocol!
Let’s jump to 1986, right after college, as I landed at the Amsterdam airport to continue my hockey career. Have imbibed in various spirits in flight, I had a few things to take care of prior to customs. My first challenge was deciphering which commode to visit. I guessed right and went for the stick figure without the skirt on. Not that that would have mattered in some parts of Amsterdam. Finding the configuration of the apparatus relatively similar to those stateside, I commenced to commencing and finished up in short order. Then came the final step, the wake-up call, the paperwork if you will. I glanced to my right, you know next to the ashtray, and noticed the grade of paper available. Seriously? I could get softer sand paper at Lowes. This gray no-ply stuff was brutal! My Mother would have taken extreme offense to the Dutch wanting her baby boys touché assaulted with such material. Once again, not having done my homework, I signed up for the new adventure and vowed never again to depart the shores of North America without a soft cloudy “Square to Spare”.
Did I learn? Nope! It was off to Egypt several years later for some military training. As my feet hit the Saini my parachute enveloped me and the 18 hour flight ended. Having some necessities to take care of the conversation went something like this…
“Hey Sergeant Walmsley, I gotta go.”
“No worries Dean, just use your entrenching tool and cover the hole when you’re done. Hey, and don’t forget to check for Scorpions.”
“Yea Man, they’re everywhere and are drawn to the heat.”
You gotta be kidding me! No way was I going to be the first injured on this deployment. Talk about something that doesn’t brief well? Being Medevac’d for a scorpion bite on the posterior would never be lived down. Ever!
Are you starting to get the drift? If not, you need to. Because the little drinking fountain next der toiletten in Germany isn’t for dehydration issues. It’s for hydrating your birthday suit. And please, please don’t forget toilet paper doesn’t go down the chute. It gets wadded up in more T.P. and tossed into the little garbage can by the baby wipes. The baby wipes? Yup, one of five critical steps in the procedure. And a procedure it is, especially if you’re trying to figure it out on the fly.
My last piece of advice originates from my most recent business swarray to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. On a trip to the world’s largest and most amazing indoor mall in Dubai, I found it was that time. I was honestly taken aback when I walked into my first public bathroom stall to find the floor looking as though my Yellow Lab had shaken himself dry after jumping in the river. There was water all over the place! As I broached the immaculate porcelain potty, I saw the hose. Now this apparatus, in this setting, was new to me. Minimal paper in the stall, but a bright shiny silver hose, like the one by the sink where you might wash your hair. Except you don’t wash your hair… Good thing I had Wranglers on or the full on sprinkler effect on my trousers would have been noticed immediately. Still trying to figure out the methodology here…
Please tell me you’ve figured this out. I pray my close calls from Caracas, to Xian, back over to Cairo and then onto Pristina have made your lightbulb go on. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Put You Tube and Google to work. If your load isn’t too heavy already, pack a little pack of Western pleasure. Just for some piece of mind.