Wednesday, June 3, 2009
When I was 19 I moved to Australia to do my university degree. I thought it was a huge thing, and in a way it was. 19 years old. Alone in a new country. As far away from home as one can get.
However, I used my best social skills and quickly made friends. It didn’t take long before I got invited to some really ‘cool’ (I was 19, OK?!) parties, where all the hip Aussie kids were hanging out: surfers, Australian football players, meaty rugby guys and you name it. At one of those parties (a huge house party) I managed the unforgivable. I looked myself inside the bathroom. And in my clear state of panic, I didn’t want to cause a scene, or, become the ‘toilet girl’ so I sent a desperate, but discreet sms to my American girlfriend:
“Help! I am stuck in the toilet!”
(This was after only 2 months in Aussie land. My English still had a lot of improvement to go through).
After about 3 minutes the whole party was standing outside the toilet door, giggling, asking me if how I was getting on, if I was really IN the toilet and if I could swim?!
Yeah, that wasn’t the coolest moment of my life.
One week ago at Suzhou’s train station, the story (almost) repeated itself.
The public toilets at train stations in China are quite… awful, due to one reason: no lock on the door. So while you’re squatting to pee, anyone can open the door: A nightmare for an already nervous pee-er. (I still don’t understand how guys can mange those rows of urinals?)
Since I’ve been ‘caught’ of guard (and almost fallen into the hole as a result. Even though I know it is coming I still get as scared every time) numerous times, I always try to hold the door, or, somehow prevent others from opening it. When I went to the bathroom last week, I realized that the toilet door to my booth had a lose metal spline, which I could use to my advantage. With some power I slammed the door so that the spline stopped outsiders from opening it. Ahhhh… relief. I could pee in peace.
Although… when I tried to get out of the toilet booth I bumped into some problems. The spline was lose, but just a little bit. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t push it back to where it should be and open the door. It simply didn’t work. And as a result, I once again found myself locked inside a (this time quite smelly) bathroom.
Seeing that I am way too tall for those booths anyways, my head was sticking up over the door and I quickly caught fellow toilet visitors’ attention.
-Ehh hello everyone! I am stuck in here. Can you guys help me open the door?
I was expecting giggles, condescending looks, or well, at least something. So imagine my surprise when three middle-aged women just started pulling the door without even pulling a face! In fact, every single woman who came into the toilet engaged in the door pulling game. I was pushing from inside while they were pulling from the outside. Still, we couldn’t get the door to open. Two women went to call for help (humiliating, oh, no just a little bit) while three others continued to push, pull and slam the door. Suddenly one got an idea and started lifting the door… after a collective effort we managed to lift and ‘bend’ the door enough for me to be able to climb out. A helpful woman caught me when I landed, and then everybody let go of the door.
-Thank you so much!!! I gushed. I had imagined myself not only missing my train but also spending some hours inside a smelly toilet booth at the train station while some giggling Chinese people tried to remove the door from the outside.
-Oh that’s nothing to thank for! Said one woman and went to wash her hands. And that was it.
I am so impressed by their helpfulness, not to mention the immaculate teamwork! No one cared that they were touching some smelly (and probably not the most hygienic) door, or that it was a large laowai who’d managed to put herself in this (I would guess quite rare) sticky situation. In fact, no one even took a minute to think about it. As soon as I said the word ‘help’ they were all doing their outmost to remove the door!
I somehow have a problem seeing the same team of helpers gathering to help a woman who’s locked herself inside the bathroom back in Sweden.