A Tale of Two Toilets (Or, How I Found Myself in a Men’s Restroom in the Kingdom of Cambodia)

I’m watching my children play at an indoor play place. A fun Friday afternoon play date.  One child suddenly declares the need to visit the restroom. This need is urgent. I reach for my backpack; it has toilet paper, wipes, and hand sanitizer. Must never leave home without toilet paper, wipes, and hand sanitizer. No bathroom in Cambodia is guaranteed to provide toilet paper or soap. Come to think of it, no bathroom in Cambodia is even guaranteed to provide a seat on a toilet, or the toilet itself.

No worries, my friend says, these bathrooms have toilet paper, and she’ll watch my other kids. With baby on hip, I take the older child to the restroom. Stall #1? No toilet paper. Stall #2? No toilet paper. Stall #3? No toilet paper. Stall #4? Jammed.  But my child absolutely cannot wait any longer, so I say I will run to get the toilet paper while you stay here. Stall #2 is chosen. Close and lock the door, I instruct.

I run for the backpack and return with it and the baby. I hand over the toilet paper. I stand in the bathroom, waiting. The child claims the toilet won’t flush. So I say, move to another toilet.  But someone will see me, is the reply I hear. I close the bathroom door and say, now no one can see you, so switch stalls. Check Stall #3. No seat lid. Check Stall #1. No seat lid. Check Stall #4. Still jammed. Back to Stall #2. Which supposedly wouldn’t flush?? But we’re American so I guess the presence of a seat is more important than flushability. I re-open the main door.

It is at this point in time that I hear water running. From behind Jammed Door #4. Oh yes, someone was in that stall this entire time. What emerges from Stall #4 is a Cambodian Man.

It begins to dawn on me that I have been standing inside a men’s room for some 10 minutes now. Of course I have been; the child with the bathroom emergency is a male child. I move out of the man’s way and inch toward the door. Feeling awkward, I ask the son if he’s done. Not yet, I hear. A Skinny Asian Dude walks in the door.

Son asks me for more toilet paper. I pull some more out of my back pack. Skinny Asian Dude is at the urinal, talking on his cell phone, positioned between me and my boy. I self-consciously look away and squeeze past him in order to give my son more toilet paper. I move toward the exit again. After all, I don’t really want to be inside the men’s bathroom. But I don’t really want to let my beloved son out of my sight in a foreign country, even for urgent bathroom business.

I move out of the way for yet another man to enter the restroom. I wait at the doorway. Several more men go in and out of there while my son finishes. I witness every single one of those skinny Asian Dudes washing his hands in the sink. Germophobe Mommy is impressed. When my little man (finally!) emerges from Stall #2, a Skinny Asian Dude dispenses soap for him and turns on the water.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand now back to the 4th Floor Play Place.

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Toilets (Or, How I Found Myself in a Men’s Restroom in the Kingdom of Cambodia)

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