The Dangers of Travel

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by Carol Kicinski on April 19, 2009

When traveling to foreign countries we are often warned of the inherent dangers. We are told to mind our passports lest they be stolen, causing untold trouble. We know to watch for pickpockets in crowded public spaces and to keep a close eye on our luggage. Drinking the water and eating in some places can be disastrous, especially when gluten-intolerant or having other food allergies.

But using the ladies room? I have seen no public service announcement’s cautioning of the pitfalls. The American Embassy issues no special notices of which I am aware. Public alerts regarding the dangers of peeing have been largely neglected, in my opinion.

I once had an ultra-sound of my abdomen and the technician gasped in astonishment. Worried that there was a huge tumor in there, I begged him to break protocol and tell me what he saw. He said I have an unusually large bladder. In China, this has served me well.

While all of the western hotels and such have what we consider to be conventional toilets, once you stray from there you will most likely find a porcelain (if you are lucky) basin in the ground instead.

Now I consider myself an adventurous traveler and believe me, I have gone to and stayed in places in Africa and Asia that that not many Americans or Europeans would dare venture. And really, who am I to judge the way other people use the toilet? For all I know, the Chinese may think that western toilets are really gross – I mean think about it. Sitting your naked butt where others have sat their naked butts doing you know what (thank God for disposable toilet seat covers!).

The truth be told, I just don’t know how to do the whole squat thing. Could be that I lack the muscular strength in my thighs. (Maybe the toilet situation here accounts for the fact that I have yet to see a local Chinese woman with saddlebags – something to consider.) As a result, I tend to “hold it” until I get to a western toilet.

The other day I toured a factory with my husband. I am accompanying him on business and when the talks start, I tend to zone out. All I heard in these meetings was “blah, blah, blah most sophisticated blah in the world blah, blah only one of its kind blah, blah multi million dollar addition to the factory blah, blah…” The gist is that this was one expensive high tech factory. So after a two hour train ride, a forty minute car ride, a huge lunch, a three hour meeting and about a million cups of tea it was definitely past the ability of even my super enlarged bladder to hold it any more and I did not think twice when I asked for the ladies room. Obviously the second largest factory of its kind in all of China with the only bazillion dollar machine in the world would certainly have “modern plumbing”.


Apparently not.

So there I was in high heels and tight pants trying to figure out how to pee standing up into a hole and not on my clothes. After trying several different positions the only solution I could come up with was to strip while keeping my shoes on – no way I was Britney Spearsing it in the bathroom. I balanced myself (in heels!) by bracing my arms against the walls of the stall and held my pants draped over one arm. Success! I put my pants back on, teetering on one pointy heel at a time because the pants would not go back on over the shoes. After an eternity, I was done! It may have been unconventional but I managed to pee standing up without incident.

I was so proud of the fact that I had mastered the simple act of peeing that I confidently strode out of the stall forgetting that the stalls were raised about a foot off the floor.

I fell, hitting my head smartly on the marble wall and ended up seeing stars —  sprawled, beaten and battered on the bathroom floor.

I managed to get myself up about a half a second before our very concerned factory hostess came looking for me.

I walked out with a lump on my forehead the size of a goose egg, a bruise on my left knee, a dislocated shoulder and in desperate want of a shower.

Come to think of it, I have heard that most accidents occur in the bathroom.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy April 19, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Good heavens! What an ordeal! I hope you’re okay.

I have to say, your story made me chuckle a little. I’ve been faced with that squatting issue myself before. Makes me really appreciate my humble digs, noisy plumbing and all. ;)


Peter G April 19, 2009 at 10:22 pm

“no way I was Britney Spearsing it in the bathroom…” Oh Carol! You had me in hysterics! Sorry to laugh but this post has really cheered me up today! Keep them coming…I’m enjoying all your travel stories!


Arwen from Hoglet K April 20, 2009 at 3:02 am

Oh no! What a disaster. I actually quite like squat toilets, but they would certainly be awkward in heels.


GFE--gluten free easily April 20, 2009 at 3:32 am

I’ve experienced those holes in the ground and pitiful, seatless toilets in the Caribbean before. It always takes me by surprise. I even paid once to go to the bathroom to find out that’s what I was paying for. And, the man handed me my four squares of toilet paper when he took my money. Yikes. Going to the bathroom in the woods is a whole lot easier for sure. You did well, but I am really sorry about the fall/goose bump.

I laughed about the huge bladder. In contrast, my husband used to joke that I had a bladder and kidneys the size of lint. (But, thankfully, bladder issues have also been a thing of the past after going gluten free though.)


Sue April 20, 2009 at 3:05 pm

OMG! Poor you. I honestly don’t know how people do that. In the incredibly modern Singapore airport, the bathroom has many choices of stall to choose from and a hole in the ground is one of them. I get that they’re traditional and all that, but ewwww.


Naomi Devlin April 21, 2009 at 3:26 am

Must remember to do my squats if I ever want to venture Singapore-wards.

You story reminds me of the Friends episode where Ross ends up in a bathroom and some leather pants he can’t get back on. The horror.

I think you would have been fine but for the heels, nobody should have to squat in heels!

x x x


toni April 21, 2009 at 8:56 am

Oh dear, Carol – I have used these kinds of toilets in Asia, and while I don’t love them (AT ALL!), it would never have dawned on me to try and pee standing up. Squatting isn’t a favorite past time, but it beats tumbling onto a bathroom floor – ick! Sorry you had to go through this!


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