Monday, December 7, 2009

People actually DO that?

Years ago, my sister and I were in the ladies, at some God-forsaken highway rest-stop out in South Dakota somewhere. It was after midnight, the lighting was terrible, and I was complaining about the poor quality of the mirror, which was a simple sheet of polished steel. The steel was wavy and kind of scratched, and its dull surface reflected only my general outline, rather than the exceedingly fine details of eyeliner, mascara, and lipgloss.

"What's up with that? Can't the South Dakota highway department afford real glass?" I asked. It was already obvious that they couldn't afford a real proofreader, because the largest toilet stall was labeled "handicaped only."

Stifling giggles, Martha said, "Well, probably people break the glass ones."

"Wait. You mean women? Breaking mirrors?" I was slack-jawed at the thought. Women breaking mirrors in rest-stop bathrooms in the middle of nowhere? How was that possible?

"Well, it could be anyone, really. I mean, guys could come in here in the middle of the night, and have a fight and the mirrors could get broken."

"Wait." My mind was reeling. First women breaking mirrors, vandalizing public property, perhaps even on purpose. Then, men in the ladies room. My God! What was the world coming to? And why had I never considered any of these exciting options for sh** to do in my spare time? Too much time reading Baudelaire and Ionesco for French V, obviously, and not enough time spent dreaming up acts of anarchic violence. Clearly, my bourgeois ordinariness was holding me back.

I hadn't thought about vandalism for years, until my recent trip to Greece. Because apparently, female museum-goers in Greece are just as rowdy and destructive as those South Dakotans.

IMG_9181 kouros head, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

Who knew?

At the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, you can gaze on the Mask of Agamemnon...

IMG_9233 mask agamemnon, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

and the golden treasures of Mycenae.

IMG_9234 golden ox, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

You can look at Etruscan pottery...

IMG_9174 etruscan pot, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

or you can contemplate statuary.

IMG_9224 horse and boy, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

But, after all that, if you need to use the ladies, consider yourself forewarned. This is what you'll find if you go to use the loo at the museum.

IMG_9335 not at the museum, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

The women have torn off all the toilet seats, apparently. Fits of rage over poorly interpreted exhibitions? Blind anger over lack of bargains in the museum shop? Apoplectic fits at the sight of inattentive security personnel?

We will never know. But if you prefer to sit rather than squat, I suggest you use the toilet at your hotel before you go out touring. Because there's not a goddamn toilet seat to be found anywhere in Athens. Hope your quadriceps and hamstrings and glutes are fit, girls. You'll be needing 'em.



Kurt said...

I always use the Ladies room in case they have a period couch in there. Peeing and napping go together like mimes and violence.

Eileen said...

ah, the joys of squatting! This was funny. But I'd always assumed the lack of seat was due to a financial decision. I was at a home once in Costa Rica that didn't have one either, and I'm pretty sure that was the only bathroom "in" the house (it was outside, in a little shack).

Good to see you back here!

SkylersDad said...

I had a funny comment ready but Kurt had me laughing so hard I forgot it!

pinolona said...

Didn't you experience this in Poland?
When I came home, I had to learn how to pee sitting down again.
Oh and in that case, never, ever go to Ukraine...

(wv: shneckwa - angry battle cry of the toiletseat-tearing female. etymology thought to be early Japanese. Or Yiddish)

Christine said...

What is that in the bottom of the bowl? Eeew! Looks like slugs!

Lisa Paul said...

Love this. I, too, have a secret (well not so secret now that I'm blogging) habit of photographing a "bathroom report" when I travel. Saw some pretty scary things in remote parts of Asia. But hands-down, the worst, foulest, most destroyed and unusable toilets in the world (at least that I've encountered): France. Don't even plan on taking a bathroom break at the Louvre.

truestarr said...

I find this oddity in many ladies toilets in Greece, but I've come to the conclusion it's not vandalism but possibly rather a bizarre sort of masculine frugalism gone off in an odd direction.

As men do much of the designing of kitchens (WHY do they put things there???) and bathrooms (as well as organize grocery stores- yes, that's why you can't find anything...) I am guessing the reasons and logics for the lack of toilet seats are many and unknowable.

However, all toilets both men's and ladies have no tops (mens toilets tho a mystery to me are not to the male portion of my family).

So re missing toilet seats- I draw my own conclusions: I believe it's because as men pee standing up, and this is just the Greek "macho" way of leaving the seat up - indefinitely.

Crabby McSlacker said...

I'm not sure which is worse--no toilet seat, or a toilet seat that's been peed all over by hoverers who miss and won't clean up after themselves.

I would rather sit than squat personally, but judging by the state of the seats I encounter I'm beginning to think I'm in the minority.

expateek said...

Kurt -- mimes and violence up next, I guess. I don't really want to talk about the time I peed and napped at the same time.

Eileen -- squatting -- we can do it everywhere! Why I bother to go to the gym, I do not know.

SkylersDad -- really, you definitely must concentrate harder. I'm sure all those images of bare bums over toilets got you distracted. Not all the bare bums are those of 20-year-old Greek porn stars, either, you know!

Pino -- I think most disgusting Polish toilets are the ones on the trains between Warsaw and Krakow. I could hardly even get out of those -- shall I touch the door handle? Shall I not? Hell, I'm trapped in here!!! Gah. *shudder*

Christine -- I don't know what that crap is at the bottom of the bowl either. Ugh. After I posted the photo, I was like, "what the f---?" The cleaning staff at the museum is REALLY takin' the piss (as they say in the EUROZONE.) Apparently no one wants to have anything to do with these, bowls.

Truestarr -- Excellent point. Leaving the toilet seat up, indefinitely. We can see how sexism is ingrained in the very fabric of Greek society. I think you should do an academic paper on this.

LisaPaul -- no, I disagree. Absolutely the 8th circle of hell? Public loo in Eton High Street. Vile, disgusting, beyond French. Though on a different day, the French can also be totally appalling. So I would say "hold it" at the Louvre. You can do it!

Crabby -- "Hoverers". There's a special place in the Inferno for those women, and you've just reminded me all over again to always wipe the seat. Though I did go to college (Wellesley, since you ask) with a woman who sat on her hands to pee, saying that "you can always wash them, after".... I didn't ever touch her, ever again.