Tuesday, May 24, 2011
It’s amusing how, in those foggy moments before sleep takes hold, ideas are plentiful and always seem brilliant. As I lay gazing at murky outlines dancing on my walls, with my head enveloped between pillows, I am amazed by my own cleverness. I chuckle out loud at as I drift off to sleep. I’m certain that when dawn arrives and the shadows fade my ideas will grow more distant with them. What I seem to be left with are remnants and flashes of rather ordinary thoughts.
One thought, however, stayed with me. It’s been with me for years.
On our first visit to Puerto Vallarta Jeff braved the cobblestone streets with a bad knee, a case of traveler’s diarrhea and no bathroom’s in sight.
“Make sure you use hand sanitizer,” I warned him before we left on our trip. I’m not sure if it’s his line of work in the construction industry, or it’s just a man thing, but for some reason my husband seems to be of the opinion that he is the “conqueror of germs” and their potent arsenal is trivial when it comes to his brut strength.
I’ve never had much of a problem traveling in Mexico. I drink the water at the hotel. I eat salads and have ice in my drinks. I’m not saying that I am indiscriminate in where I choose to eat, but I do keep sanitizer handy for use before and after everything, whether it’s exchanging money, eating or site seeing.
On that visit to Puerto Vallarta Jeff actually was much more concerned than I was with what he ate and drank. He only had bottled drinks and ate nothing uncooked. Unfortunately for him he didn’t take the time to wash or sanitize his hands often. After all, germs tremble at the site of him.
About the third day we both felt a little twinge of that familiar traveler’s bug. Neither of us seemed to be hit hard, only enough to lie low for a day and recover by the pool. By the following afternoon we felt fine and decided it was time to see the boardwalk area of Puerto Vallarta by moonlight.
It was a lovely walk through the lively streets of the colorful seaside town. We had picked the perfect evening for site seeing. It was the time of the week that the locals filled the center of town and the atmosphere was that of a summer’s night carnival complete with street performers and endless mariachi music. There were children running and laughing and young couples holding hands as the elder generation watched from benches alongside the beach.
Jeff and I were laughing and enjoying the sites when he suddenly grabbed his side and leaned up against a building. Knowing that he had been having trouble with his knee I asked if it was giving him trouble.
“It’s not my knee. I need to find a bathroom, fast!”
Remembering that public bathrooms are few and far between in Mexico I wasn’t sure what to do.
“We’re going to have to go to the hotel,” I told him. “It’s closer than back to the restaurant.”
“I’m not sure I can make it that far,” he managed to say between contorting his face and squeezing his stomach.
I grabbed him by the arm and started off, “You don’t have a choice. We’ll make it.”
As I tried to take the lead and guide him through the hazard filled street he begged me to slow down, he was having trouble walking with the stabbing pain in his knee and with growing storm in his gut. We would slow only to be reminded of why we needed to move more quickly.
“Teri I can’t make it!” he blurted out.
“Yes you can, I remember where a bathroom is. It’s up there a couple of blocks ahead. There was a girl attendant sitting outside,” I reminded him.
“I’m telling you I CAN”T MAKE IT!”
After what seemed like hours we reached the bathroom and he darted in. The attendant glanced up at him before shaking her head and looking down to continue reading her book. That’s when I saw another man walk up to her, pay for toilet paper and enter the bathroom.
“Oh holy shit!” It was then I remembered that there’s usually no toilet paper in the public restrooms, you have to pay the attendant for it. In desperation Jeff ran right past her and into the bathroom.
I stood there shaking my head, it wasn’t going to be good. I waited forever for him to emerge from the bathroom. Finally I saw him. He didn’t look well and rushed up to me.
“We need to get back to the hotel NOW.”
I noticed he was drenched with sweat. He reminded me of the anchor man on “Network News.” His hair was wet, there was sweat dripping from his face and his shirt was clinging to him.
“Are you ok?”
“As soon as I got in there and took my shorts down I exploded all over the wall, the toilet and the floor!”
I was trying to contain my laughter.
“There wasn’t any toilet paper was there?”
“Hell NO! I had to take off my underwear and try to use them to clean up, and there was another person waiting to get into the stall. There was shit everywhere, the smell was terrible. Then I saw a basket filled with toilet paper.”
Oh no, I couldn’t believe what he was about to tell me.
“I reached in to grab some of the paper and it was covered with someone else’s crap! I have another person’s shit all over my hands!”
A lot of the bathrooms in Mexico have baskets beside the toilets. Their sewer systems aren’t able to process the toilet paper. It goes in the basket, not the toilet.
I was really trying to contain my laughter then, it would only piss him off more if I let loose. That’s when I noticed there was something on his shorts.
“Teri, it’s shit! And, I had to throw away my underwear. We have to get back to the hotel. You walk in front of me so no one sees my shorts.”
“Ok, follow me.” I scurried off.
“Teri, slow down, my knee’s killing me. I can’t go that fast.”
“Do you want to get to the hotel or not? Do you want everyone to smell you as you walk by?”
“Ok, I’ll try to keep up. Just go,” he said.
As we half ran, half limped through the streets I knew everyone was staring at us. They had to smell him as we passed by.
Jeff was mumbling, loudly, about uncivilized countries, no bathrooms, no toilet paper and savages. That wasn’t going to help us if any locals heard him. I told him to keep his thoughts to himself and try to keep up with me.
Luckily when we got to the hotel there was no one else waiting for the elevator. We were able to make it to our room without offending another person’s olfactory sense.
After making it to the room he went straight to the shower. Soon he came into the room holding his pair of freshly washed shorts. Silk shorts. I realized it would be better if I said nothing about the possibility of them being ruined.
He put the shorts out on the balcony to dry and came to sit beside me on the bed. I could contain myself no more and burst into uncontrollable laughter. After a few terse looks, he too began to laugh.
We laughed forever before I told him we had to skype with the kids. I had to tell them that their father just crapped, not only his pants, but an entire bathroom.
When we got home from our trip I told him he had to take the shorts to the cleaners, that I wouldn’t do it. He said he took them in and John, the owner of the dry cleaners, looked the shorts over and asked
“What are these stains?”
“What did you tell him?”
“Nothing. I was trying to think of what to say when he looked at me and said ‘Never mind.’