I paced back and forth as we waited for the vaparetto to take us from Venice to the island of Torcello, my heart racing, my eyes wild with fear. I felt like a cornered wild animal. I looked for somewhere to escape. That cafe around the corner maybe? I just knew one thing: I couldn’t get on that boat!
The vaparetto arrived. I would look like a fool either way: whether I ran away or I peed my pants.
I was beginning to lose hope that I could preserve my dignity until I heard the magic words: “C’è un bangno!” The vaparetto has a bathroom! I could have cried with joy.
The funny thing is, I didn’t even have to go to the bathroom. That’s the sneaky thing about fear. You don’t even need a real threat to go into panic, just the mere thought of a threat.
I didn’t even have to use that bathroom on the vaparetto either. I happily chatted away in Italian with some friendly Italians, soaking up the sun.
So, I have this embarrassing fear of having to pee really, really bad, but not being able to find a bathroom. It’s right on par with my fear of heights.
Crazy? I know. But it’s not completely unjustified.
In the United States, I don’t really have this problem. I don’t often take public transportation or go on road trips. And if I am in the car for hours at a time, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s a McDonald’s or a Starbucks nearby. Or at the very least, a tree I can squat behind.
It’s a different story when I’m traveling by plane, boat, or bus. Something about the jostling motion triggers my need to go, like NOW.
My fear of not having access to a bathroom is not unfounded. You’ll see.
Example #1: Val Del Mis
See this incredibly beautiful lake in the Val del Mis? That is the only bathroom around: a hole in the ground. I was there for Ferragosto (the day when ALL of Italy is on vacation). Can you imagine what a hot commodity this little hole was with hundreds if not thousands of people crammed into this national park at the foot of the Dolomites? There were so many people around and the trees were so narrow and skinny that it was impossible to answer when nature called.
There actually was another bathroom, but the lady at the little visitors hut just shrugged, “it hasn’t worked for a year!”
Example #2: The bus in Torino
When I arrived in Torino for my semester abroad, they stuck us in one of those big tour buses to take us to our apartments. My roommate and I just so happened to be the last ones to be dropped off. Out of nowhere, I had to go. Not just go, but GO. So I made the driver pull over on a narrow road and ran into the nearest cafe.
And I kid you not, it happened again. I was on another tour bus, heading up a winding mountain. You bet I had no shame in stopping that bus this time! I’d rather be known as the girl who inconveniently stops the bus than the girl who pees her pants.
I finally got to the point where I stopped drinking a drop if were on a bus. I watched a group of guys in my study abroad group chug beers in the back of the bus on one of our trips, and all I could think was, this time, it won’t be me! One of them was moaning “I’m up to my eyes in piss!” and ran into the trees the minute the bus stopped.
Example #3: The plane
One time when I was younger, 12 maybe? I literally stopped a plane from taking off.
I had to go SO bad, that I asked a flight attendant to use the restroom moments before we took off. She rolled her eyes and gave me a “sit down little girl” look until she realized that stalling the plane would be easier than cleaning a seat. She notified the pilot, who then notified the control tower. Yeah, I’m that girl.
My fear of “the urge” is especially strong before I fly. I think it’s the extra nervousness/excitement/knowing I can’t get out of my seat during takeoff, landing, or turbulence even if my eyes are about to pop.
This post is in honor of World Toilet Day (seriously, it exists), which is meant to raise awareness about poor sanitation in parts of the world. I’m thankful to have access to plumbing and clean water.