Even the basic necessities in life can be an adventure once you cross south of the Rio Grande.
Like this morning when we stopped at a gas station:
I approached the little white building with the blue restroom sign. There was a worker sweeping out the men’s side with water and a rustic broom. I walked toward the left to enter the womans room, noting the chair between the two entrances holding the cardboard sign informing the charge of three pesos per person.
I asked the worker if the woman’s side had been cleaned yet, and without answering ‘yes’, he told me I may enter. One step in and I heard a man groan loudly from inside the woman’s bathroom. Startled, I told the worker that there was a man in there. He shrugged and looked at me as if to say ‘so?’. Call me culturally challenged, but I refused to go in. So I asked him if there was a restroom in the convenient store across the parking lot. “Sí”, he answered.
I walked across the lot and into the store asking for the restrooms. The cashier pointed back to from where I had come and said, “They are out there.”
“I was just there; that muchacho told me there is one in here.”
“No, Señora, they are out there”.
I went to the car and told Mike we’d have to stop again somewhere down the road since the people there were imbeciles. Bad missionary! A full bladder and serious discomfort can make one behave badly and say unkind words.
Shortly thereafter, we stopped again. What a relief to find no cost to enter and no man in the ladies room. But that feeling quickly turned to dismay when I saw the dirty, un-flushed commodes without seats and each stall without toilet paper or locks to keep the doors shut. Nothing much changed while we were gone these few weeks. I had once again become potty spoiled in gringolandia.
I was, however, prepared. I took the roll of TP from my purse and carefully placed strips of it on the cold, hard ring, making sure none fell in. Having played the game of “Operation” as a kid comes in handy during such times.
The trick after that is good balance. The commode is not quite as thin as a tight rope, but the physics behind the act is similar: distribute weight evenly and you’ll not fall. I remembered also that we’re back to where paper is thrown in the trash and not in the bowl. Oops – I remembered too late.
I made my way to the sink, next to the blue sign with the outline of hands washing under a cloud of soapy bubbles and the words “favor de lavarse las manos” (please wash your hands). Great, I would have loved to – except the water didn’t work, the soap dispenser was empty, and the paper towels gone. Wet wipes to the rescue again.
The billboard we passed 170 kilometers down the road seemed mischievously appropriate: ¡Disfrute el viaje..siempre una aventura! Enjoy your trip…always an adventure!
Even in the restrooms.