Beijing Bathroom Trauma: Part 2
Summer, 1984: Beijing, China
Part 2 of a two-part series.
The second story is about squat toilets, which you would expect would make quite an impression on a teenager girl. Our group of Hawaii students shared two squat toilets in a co-ed bathroom. As I mentioned, there were only 10 in our group, so within hours you had pretty much figured out who’s shoes were who’s, which made going to the toilet that much more embarrassing.
Now squat toilets have their advantages. One being a pair of pretty strong thighs at the end of the summer.
Note: Most squat toilet stalls have a handle on the door about eye-level to assist with a particularly troublesome movement. A second advantage….oh wait, there are no more advantages. My worst memory of a squat toilet scenario was when we were attending a Chinese opera.
At about 4 weeks into the summer I had just about all the Chinese opera I could handle. I know it’s a national treasure and cultural Chinese icon, but please, no more Monkey King. When we really couldn’t take any more crashing cymbals, one or two of us would escape to the bathroom for a break.
You could obviously see our desperation, if escaping to the bathroom was preferable to sitting in our seats. This particular bathroom had no stalls, just a string of holes lining three walls and a gutter in front of you. (I’m not sure what the gutter was for, but it had water in it…I think.)
You would squat facing outwards and do your business while at the same time watching 30 other women do their business. There was also an attendant there with a mop. Since we went in during the performance, no one else was there except my friend and I and the bathroom attendant. So I was squatting while my friend was acting a look out (what she would’ve done if anyone came was not the point, I simply felt better having someone keep an eye on the door).
Here I was in this vulnerable position, my skirt rucked up around my thighs, and aiming my fanny over the hole in the floor. (This is fairly graphic – sorry about that.) At that most vulnerable moment, an attendant walks over to me and begins mopping right in front of my feet. Cornered like a rat! What was I going to do?! I looked up at her and she looked down at me and I quickly finished. At this point any Chinese opera was a might better than having this creepy woman leer at me with mop in hand. Save me Monkey King!
Needless to say, we stayed glued to our theater seats the rest of the performance — a new-found appreciation for this revered art form.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series.
This entry was posted on Saturday, June 20th, 2009 and is filed under Asia Pacific.