I seldom get embarrassed at things that happen to me, and can only recall one time in the past 20 or so years when I was truly indicted into the 'egg all over your face', league. It was a time I recall vividly, and one I would really like to forget.
I was on a trip to Turkey, a country known for its beauty and exotic customs, and one I thoroughly enjoyed visiting. I woke on a sunny morning and, after breakfast set out with my guide. We were driving along the southern coast, admiring the spectacular views of the Mediterranean. I knew it was going to be another great day. Little did I know what fate had in store for me.
Most of Turkey is Muslim and I have visited enough Islamic countries to know that they, like any other foreign lands, are worthy of my respect for their traditions and customs. I do my utmost to attempt to fit into the local environments, no matter how different they are from what I am used to.
We were driving along when I felt my stomach begin to rumble a little. No, it wasn't hunger, for I had eaten a hearty breakfast. I waited a bit and realized it was time for a non-scheduled pit stop. I mentioned this to my driver and he said we would find a place. Time passed and the situation grew more pressing. Again I spoke up, but this time expressed urgency in my voice.
"There is a park, nearby," he replied. "Will that do?"
"Absolutely," I said, adamantly. I could see a building ahead of us and was relieved when he pulled to a slow stop. I did not wait for directions and literally bolted to the stone structure. Sitting in front was an elderly lady, the matron of the lavatory, who demanded a financial contribution before allowing anyone to enter her keep. Quickly I fumbled through my pocket to find enough Turkish Lire to satisfy her and hastily made my way inside.
There were three stalls, all without doors and across from them was a stainless steel mirror, which hung above a long trough used for hand washing. Thankfully the place was empty, and I made a mad dash to the middle cubicle.
All was well and I began to relax. I was quite familiar with the 'hole in the floor' concept for public toilets around the world, and had no concerns about using one. What did suddenly occur to me was that my toilet paper (never leave home without it) was in my back pack and in my hurried state, I had forgotten it in the car.
Located in each stall was a small tap with a short hose attached; a tradition found throughout the Middle East. A effective practice, which does require some practice before mastering it. I turned the tap, ever so little and nothing happened. I turned a little further and still nothing. By the fourth turn I wondered if it was working and was about to give it one last crank when suddenly, with the force of hurricane Hazel, the water came spurting out so fast that I lost my grip on the hose.
Similar to a balloon swirling around a room, the hose spewed water wildly throughout the cubicle. I tried to grab the tube several times and by now my hair, as well as the rest of me, was soaked.
At last I was able to turn the water off and, attempted to regain my composure. I was about to stand when I noticed a woman washing her hands and staring at me in the reflection of the mirror. I halted as our gazes met, and realized she was laughing so hard I thought she was going to burst. I didn’t know where to look and ran from the cubicle, out the door, and back to the car.
My driver was staring in disbelief when he saw me, but he knew enough not to ask any questions. We continued in silence as I waited patiently for my clothes to dry. Finally he suggested we stop for lunch in a small town ahead where they had a wonderful restaurant with a patio. I appreciated the opportunity of sitting in the sun to help me dry.
I ordered what I expected to be a wonderful meal and my mind began to drift away from my challenging event earlier that day. I gazed around the outdoor patio and froze when I saw a table of four. Sitting there, staring back at me with a big grin on her face was the woman from the washroom. I watched as she spoke to her friend who then turned to glance at me. The two began to laugh, and I could feel a cold sweat pour over my face.
I looked at the driver and said I was going to the car. I asked him to bring the food when it came and said I no longer wished to eat there. Dumbfounded he watched as I left, feeling the laughing stares of the people at the table burn into the back of my head. There was certainly no Turkish delight for me that day.