South American Toilet Trauma

Be Afraid, Very Afraid

We were more than half way into our 7 hour bus ride to Argentina when toilet trauma struck.

Only minutes before, outside my window, as afternoon gave way to dusk, snow dusted mountains towered over a seemingly endless stream of verdant pastoral fields full of grazing cattle and serene homesteads ideally situated against the shores of Lago Puyehue.

It was the sort of scenery capable of making even the most steadfast nomad momentarily glimpse the virtues of the sedentary lifestyle. If not for the presence of the internet, I thought to myself, it was probably safe to say, much of what qualified for the ‘Outside World’ wouldn’t stand a chance of penetrating such story book tranquillity.

Such were my thoughts just as Kaia crossed the bus aisle (from where Bec lounged in an ever increasingly rare attempt at shutting her eyes) before uttering the six words that have become the bane of my existence during the past five weeks.

“Daddy, I need to go wee.”

I looked to Bec pleadingly but to no avail. She flashed a weary glance my way before giving an indifferent shrug that said it all…Suck it up, princess. It’s your turn.

Maybe it was, but, even so, Bec knew full well my dismal track record in such endeavours as of late…I didn’t think a stay of execution would be that hard to come by…but I should’ve known better.

I can understand that, to the uninitiated, it probably doesn’t sound like such an ordeal. It’s a trip to the pisser. How bad could it really be?

But, as the fact the plumbing can’t handle flushed toilet paper suggests, these are no ordinary toilets.

It probably stands to reason in a region of the world were the areas you lounge, cook, eat and bathe tend to lack in the sort of creature comforts that make Martha Stewart go all weak in the knees, the area where you do your dirty work isn’t going to resemble any porcelain version of the Taj Majal.
Pay up and enter at your own risk!

You’re simply not intended to spend any real time in these places. To begin with they’re tiny. As in phone booth tiny. Tiny and, of course, without anything resembling an actual toilet seat. Not that you’d really want to sit anyway. Not even a toilet paper ‘halo’ the thickness of a NY City phone book  would prompt you to such depravity. Which is a good thing since, toilets down these parts don’t stock the stuff. Carry your own or, at the very least, remember to bring a book you hate.

In these parts the ol’ hover muscles get quite the workout. And, with entrance fees ranging from .50 to $1.00 a visit, you can consider it a relatively cheap workout, as well.

For Kaia, with sitting out of the question and hover muscles not yet an option, there’s the Asian- Stand-Atop-The-Bowl-Squat and, the Derriere Dangle compliments of either mommy or daddy operating the hydraulics. But even these advanced techniques are not without peril as my last two calls of duty had demonstrated.

The extent to which I’m referring can best be summed up by Kaia’s last beaming proclamation after a glitch free wee excursion with mom…

“Daddy, daddy, I went wee and not fall in potty.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Now, as daddy and daughter made their way to the bowel gallows of an increasingly dark and unsteady bus, I was definitely ready to cry. Though bus travel in South America puts Greyhound to shame in terms of luxury and comfort, the fact remained once again, such comfort didn’t extend to the lavatory.

To come out of this toilet visit, I knew I was going to need a HAZMAT suite. But what could I do?

I began barking orders the moment we entered pausing only momentarily to head off an F-bomb after smashing my head into a protrusion from the lavatory ceiling. A ceiling that, for the record, couldn’t have been much bigger than a large cookie baking tray.

“Shoes off, pants off. Shoes back on…No, for the love of all things holy, don’t put your bare foot there….Shoes on. Now, feet there. No, there!” And so it went, a militaristic and choreographed pre-potty disrobing which was all leading up to the moment I knew would undo all my hard work and leave me in a puddle of tears… and, no doubt my daughter’s wee.

This time, though, fate had a different plan.

A lifeline from the heavens was thrown my way with the sound of pavement giving way to gravel and a dramatic decrease in speed. It seemed a lifeline in the form of a divinely timed border crossing had arrived.

Argentina had saved me and no sooner than the bus door had opened did Daddy and daughter b line for the border banos like Marines making a beach landing under heavy enemy fire.

There was still no seat or toilet paper, but it hardly mattered. There was room enough to operate and, better still, the place was clean. At least, clean enough that I almost felt a pang of guilt as Kaia’s muddy shoes tracked up some fastidious Argentinian’s handiwork.

Clean and novel enough to vie for the title of the most impressive scenery I’d laid eyes on all afternoon.







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