Bathrooms, toilet(te)s, water closets, long drops, call them what you will. We all need one and when you’ve got to go, especially while traveling in a developing country, it can be it’s very own adventure.
While staying at the lodge in the Simiens in Ethiopia, our oldest daughter needed to use the bathroom during dinner. No problem, there was a toilet just outside the dining room. A quick pause for relief and we would be back to our injera and shiro in no time.
Or so I thought.
Hanging out in public restrooms is one of my least favorite things to do (yours too??) and as I waited impatiently for my girl to finish her business, I began to consider if it was truly necessary that I escort this child every single time. She is almost ten, after all. She doesn’t need her mommy every single time. I mean, I am trying to raise independent kids here.
The jiggling of the door handle drew me back to reality. “Mom. I can’t open the door.”
“Well, did you try turning the lock both ways?”
“Yes. I turned it lots of times both ways. It won’t open!”
I tried pushing and pulling really hard. I checked the adjacent stall to see if she could climb over or under the wall. But clearly privacy was a top priority in this loo because, as luck would have it, there was a solid cement slab separating the two. Panic was starting to set in to her voice. Ever imaginative, I knew she was already envisioning a Rapunzel sort of lifestyle in her new quarters, lamenting a life just out of reach.
“I’m sure there’s a way out, sweetie. I promise we will figure it out.”
Spying an actual keyhole at the lock, I casually popped out to the reception to see if they perchance had a key. Expectations were low.
The woman looked perplexed at the thought of a caged child in the bathroom, and quickly grabbed a set of keys for the rescue mission. I kid you not, this oversized key ring was something straight out of medieval times. A dungeon keeper’s keys. There must have been seventeen different ones, varying widely in size and degree of rust content.
With the unsuccessful attempt of each key, I could sense the anxiety rising from the other side of the door.
“Don’t worry, Nina, we’re going to get you out.” I’m not sure who I was trying to convince more: me or her.
Well, you are never going to believe this, but not one of those keys worked. By now we were drawing a bit of a crowd, mostly staff. Some discussion in Amharic was had and soon another ancient set of keys was procured. Hope was restored! For a moment.
Crazily enough, none of those keys worked either. It went on this way through FOUR sets of keys. I was having visions of hacking through the door with an axe when at long last the magical glass slipper of a key slid into the lock, releasing my terrified daughter from her jail cell and into the arms of the mother she never thought she’d see again.
If you think there were cheers and clapping, and attaboys for the bearer of the matching key, you are one hundred percent correct.
Also, if you think this has been an isolated situation on this trip, you are one hundred percent wrong. Nearly everyone has been locked inside a toilet stall so far.
Key takeaway (pun completely intended): No matter your age, always, always, always take a potty buddy with you. Yes, even if you are going up to your own hotel room.