I’ve read a little about the art of using Asian toilets—their version of the loo consists of a hole in the ground with foot pads on either side to aid your squatting. I’ve read much less about the art of peeing on trains, but here is where I currently could use some advice. I haven’t encountered an Asian toilet yet, but I can’t imagine that’s going to be any more difficult than this.
In the U.S., it’s our right to pee when the need arises. We can find free—if unpleasant—toilets in train stations, shopping malls, restaurants and gas stations. The only place I’ve had to pay to pee in the U.S. is at a public beach, and that fee included use of a changing area.
You can imagine my horror when I got off of a 10-hour overnight bus ride from London to Amsterdam in May and, needing to take my morning pee, realized it’ll cost me €0.50. (That’s about $0.75.) I didn’t have any Euros on me—only British pounds, having just left London—let alone any change. Panic. It was 7:30 on a Sunday morning. I had to hunt down an ATM to withdraw Euros, figure out how to follow the Dutch instructions, find the one coffee and tea vendor that was open in the bus station at this hour, and buy a tea so I could get €0.50 change for the toilet. (Add a 22-pound rucksack and a 13-pound backpack to the awkwardness.) That was a 30-minute experience. Since then, I’ve paid to pee in public parks, at a public bathroom in the city, at train stations and even at a night club.
Scarred by my first foreign pay-to-pee experience, I’m now careful to always carry some change with me, and I always plan to pee while on a train, because it’s free. (If I were to add up all of my toilet tolls from the past six weeks, I could have bought at least one more Belgian beer—which would make me have to pee again, I guess.)
A free toilet doesn’t mean an easy toilet, of course. Today’s Belgium-to-France train-toilet experience was pleasant—by far the largest and least noxious train restroom I’ve encountered yet. For a €60 train ticket, I’m glad for that. The toilet was still on a train, though, so all of the bumping and rocking that accompany the fun of train-toilet squatting was in play. Peeing on a train is a game of balance, even more so than peeing in an Asian toilet, in my unexperienced opinion. Yes, your target is closer to your body, but you and your target are always moving, giving both your legs and your pee-to-toilet coordination a workout. And to think about the guys who can’t hit the toilet at home while stationary! Maybe the train bathroom will feature a handrail, but I don’t really want to touch it. Luckily, some train bathrooms are small enough that I can wedge my feet against the sides of the room to keep me in place. I might feel a book coming on about the art of peeing around the world.
As a side note to peeing on trains, I once had to pee so bad after a hash (as in the Hash House Harriers) and on-after in Brussels that I hopped on a train from Brussels Central station to Brussels Nord station just so I could use the toilet, then got off at Brussels Nord and found my correct train. It was almost midnight, and all of the bathrooms in Brussels Central station were already closed! Emergency creativity had to come in to play. No amount of carefully planned-for Euro cents would have saved me at that point.