(Published in 2004 in a collection of travel stories titled

Whose Panties are These? edited by Jennifer Leo)

We were in Yucatan on our way to visit pyramids, a two hour trip. This vacation was my great escape from daily dealings with the disgusting surprises that enliven my life as a rental property manager.
My friend Linda took a seat opposite a dignified Maya grandma in an immaculate traditional dress. I left my stuff and returned to the front of the bus.
“Do I have time to go to the bathroom?” I asked the driver in Spanish.
“Hurry. Three minutes and I’m going.” I ran into the storefront bus station. Mexican rock music blared from overpowered speakers. Families and backpackers waited on wood benches.
The bathroom was filthy, the toilets a tribute to ancient plumbing and the inadequate flush. All were missing toilet seats. The situation presented no problem for this savvy traveler. I thought, “I’ll try that trick I learned in India.” You just stand on the bare porcelain rim, your shoes the only contact, and squat.
Feeling confident, I loosened my shorts. I could handle this, easy. I stepped up with my right foot, then my left. Over the pounding beat and blaring trumpets, I heard a strange groan. The world shifted as if a huge quake shook the very earth beneath me. The universe tipped to the left. My heart raced. The toilet ripped from the tile floor.
I leaped away, pants still down, and fell hard against the locked stall door as the bowl crashed over on its side. A wave of icy slime the color of yellow vomit swept over my sandals and out into the room like Noah’s flood ripping through an Iowa pig farm. While the music blasted, I pictured unspeakable organic compounds deadlier than crap seeping into the grout between the tiles.
I lifted my wet feet in a sort of jig, befuddled as a dog in a dancehall. Was there a number larger than duotrigintillion to describe the army of evil bacteria now staging an assault on my bare toes and ankles? And the smell.  Never mind.
Two bare rusted bolts stood like tiny guards beside the hole in the floor. The dead toilet bowl lay on its side near them, an albino mammoth awaiting rescue.
I knew the station manager would burst in and find me, in mere moments. “How did you manage to destroy my toilet?”
“I stood on the seat,” I’d whimper meekly.
“You idiot,” he’d shout. “You stupid Gringa. Have you no culture? Did your mother teach you nothing? You will pay for this.”
I could expect the worst possible treatment — police interrogation, a big fine for destructive mischief, jail time for terrorist activities and betraying the trust of the entire Mexican nation. “We’ll have to call in the army to investigate.”
The bus would be long gone, without me. I’d left my money, my ID, everything with Linda. And she’d never know what happened to me.
Pulling up my pants, I slid the bolt and peeked out of the stall. No witnesses. But I still had to go. The bus driver was probably pulling away at that moment. But when you gotta, you gotta. I whipped out from behind my stall door, slipped into another stall and did my business, air butt style, my feet in the spreading mess. The smell must have reached the waiting room by now. Someone would get curious.
Still no one had come shouting accusations. Now, with one stall between me and the disaster, I could claim I knew nothing. I could lie. “What toilet? What mess?” I’d be dumb not to lie when the yelling started. The band played on.
Sloshing though the deep puddle on the floor, then looking both ways, I held my breath and washed my hands. Still no one came. Should I take five minutes to wash my feet and shoes in the sink? No, better catch that bus.
I checked the waiting room. Despite the 200-decibel sound blast, all appeared calm. The bus sat outside. I raced past the waiting people, wet sandals slapping, and out to the bus.
I climbed the steps in welcome silence. “Sorry,” I said. “But thanks for waiting.” The driver shook his head, annoyed at the delay. My sandals squished and slurped as I walked along the aisle. I sat down by Linda and could barely contain myself as I tried to tell her what happened. We clutched our bellies, exploding then bit our lips while the other passengers gave us puzzled looks.
I now sat across the aisle from the prim Maya grandma in her elegant snow white embroidered dress with flawless frilly lace. Did I smell something foul? I put my nose to my hands. I sniffed the seat back behind me.
Sneaking slowly nearer, I sniffed the hair of the man in front of me. All normal. Was I having olfactory hallucinations? Something smelled odd and that lady in white knew it was me.
Linda fell asleep, her head resting against the window. The jungle raced by and the whole incident began to take on a new coloration. I didn’t have to call the plumber. I didn’t have to explain my potty technique to the grand inquisitor. If the installer failed to bolt down that toilet with the standard sturdy hex nuts, it was not my problem.
The relief of an apartment manager on vacation bordered on pure childish glee. I’d crash landed a toilet and run away. The more I chuckled the more that dignified Maya woman kept looking over at me, like I might actually be dangerous.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: