Closest Call

Closest Call
I overheard the two women sitting next to us on the bench waiting for the Circumvesuviana that the train didn’t have a toilet. That immediately made me want to use one. The urge intensified as I recalled that we were in for a 70-minute ride on a puddle jumper. I race off, ticket in hand, leaving Jen to guard the bags, to find the toidy. The ticket-taker at the turnstile we passed through earlier gave me directions and allowed me to pass only if I returned to him with my now “used” ticket so that he could let me back into the “secured” area.

I follow his directions down two hallways and around the corner, and open the door. Lucky me. There is a cleaning man directing traffic in the lady’s room! All the stalls are occupato and there are three pishers ahead of me (one who took cuts). It was 6:35pm, our train was leaving at 6:41pm, and I didn’t even know if my watch was correct. But, I’m ready to make a puddle, Jen has strict instructions not to board without me, and I was already in line. I wasn’t going to turn back for another two minutes.

So, there we are with six stalls and nobody is coming out. Finally #1 in line is served. She comes out and #2 takes her place. I’m next, but the doors are still all closed—nobody is exiting! Mr. Mop is still directing traffic. (He probably locked all the other stalls himself so he could be Mr. In-Charge.)

The Italian women coming in are grousing big time. Even the gypsies are giving him lip. Italians don’t do lines well. I think it might be genetic. They clump, filling up all the empty space around their designated target. She who hesitates gets pushed out of the way. It’s the natural order of things in Italy and it’s not rude. It’s one of those cultural differences that make foreign travel interesting.

Finally, a gypsy exits a second stall. I think she was sleeping in there. One look at her and I decide from here on out I’m breathing through my mouth. I rush in where women with twice my bladder capacity fear to go. Finally relief — but no toilet paper! Terrific! All I have in my pocket is my guidebook which has fallen on the ground too many times to even be an option. I decide to leave the pages where they are and do a quick jiggle and hop.

Stopping only long enough to hike up my pants and partially zip, I’m outta there. I attempt to exit but Mr. Mop, turned Miniature Machiavelli, is blocking the door chatting with the other clean-up guys. He is no doubt telling them that he has taken over the women’s bathroom to establish a new world order. He’s also soliciting full-bladdered women to join the ranks of his well-ordered fila. I tap him on the shoulder. Nothing. I say SCUSI! Niente! Finally I scream PERMISSSO, grab him by the mop, move him out of the doorway, and book it towards the turnstile holding my pants with one hand and my camera with the other to keep it from denting my chest.

The first hallway was a slow go, as I had to weave around lots of people with roller bags. At the second hallway I decided to run down the exit side instead of the entrance side so I get a clear shot to the turnstile. My arm outstretched, ticket in hand, I catch the eye of the ticket checker who originally gave me directions to the toilet and who now recognizes me coming at him full throttle. He waves me through. I just have to steer around three kids who are trying to argue their way in the “out.” As soon as I get halfway through the exit the security doors close on my left arm and shoulder. (I was black and blue for a week!)

Mr. Come-On-Through intervened and pried the doors open so I could get the rest of the way out and I make it back onto the tracks. I hear the shouting and commotion behind me as the three kids try to zip past with me. The platform is now a large mob waiting for the train which arrived just as I found Jen. I tucked in my money belt, buckled my belt, and we had enough time to do a simultaneous “EEEEW” when I whispered “No TP” before boarding the train.