“I Need to Make”

by Brian on October 24, 2005

in A Parent in Israel

We were in the middle of nowhere, hiking through a flat desert
plane between two mountain ridges with nary a bush or significant
cluster of rocks located anywhere in close range, when seven-year-old
Aviv nonchalantly blurted out:

“I need to make.”

Four words that every parent has heard repeated countless times, in countless places.
“But…” I said, feigning exasperation. “There’s nowhere to make…here.”
We were out hiking in Israel’s Negev desert with a group of about 20 other adults and children.
“But I need to,” Aviv said. “Badly.”
Now, we’ve done a fair amount of traveling as a family. And one thing you
become pretty expert at when you’re on the road is how to handle potty
breaks. I dare say we’ve gotten to know the inner plumbing of country
and city alike when it comes to bathrooms.
The best place to look for a bathroom? A theme park. Plentiful facilities, generally clean, no waiting.
That is if you’re a boy. Try hitting the bathroom after the super
twirly-wheel roller coaster thingie as a woman and you may find your
bladder breaking before you’re granted relief.

At least that’s what the
two female members of the Blum clan tell me.
Aviv and I are members of the frequent peeing club. I blame myself. For years, I
used to drink an inordinate amount of water – upwards of four to five
liters a day. That was until the doctor warned me about the dangers of “water intoxication.” Apparently if you down, like, 15 liters in an hour, your blood cells get so inundated they can’t function and you die.

Now I’m done to “only” 2.5 liters a day.
That’s still a lot, and as a result, I’m constantly in need of a
bathroom. And whenever we’re on a trip, I always ask if anyone else
needs to go.
Aviv initially tagged along just to be with his father, I think. He
liked waving his hand across the automatic eye that flushes the toilet
or turns on the air hand dryer in most state-of-the-art facilities.
At some point, though, it developed into a habit.
It’s dangerous to hold it in – someone taught me that once. I have no idea if it’s medically correct. But it feels right.
The worst places to find a bathroom, by the way? A tie between the Czech Republic and India.
In the former, you have to pay everywhere. We try to save money when we
travel. We buy bread and cheese and make picnics. But we use it all up
on paid potty stops every 20 minutes.
India is a whole different ballgame. You’re better off going on a
street corner, or in a field next to a cow than using some of the unbelievably
filthy facilities…and they charge for those too in most places.
I know I’m not the only one who’s ever thought about the logistics of
finding a bathroom in a hurry. One of my favorite websites is called
Urinal.net. It solicits traveler-contributed pictures of men’s
bathrooms from around the world.
The site is addictive…and educational too. You’d be surprised by what
you can learn about local culture by looking at foreign toilets. The
most unusual urinal on the site: on the space station orbiting earth.

There’s also the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets which has a real live facility in New Delhi (of all places!) and entices visitors with the indepth online essay “The Evolution of Toilets.”

A few years ago, at the height of dot.com mania, I thought it would be
a great business to have a guide to every public restroom in major
tourist spots. Like when you’re in Rome, where exactly and how much
will it cost you to make like a Roman? The guide would rank bathrooms
and include must-have information (such as toilet paper or bring your own).
I imagined the whole thing eventually going wireless, so you could call up the list
on your GPS-enabled cellphone and the system would triangulate the
nearest facility, complete with shortcut walking instructions. I
dreamed of raising millions in venture capital and then flipping the company to
Frommer’s or Lonely Planet.
I kind of gave up when I thought about what I’d tell people I did for a living. “Oh I run a site cataloging worldwide toilets.”
That and the fact that the URL bathrooms.com was taken by a British
site founded by two brothers who, according to the website, “have over
45 years of experience in the UK Bathroom Industry.”

Hey, I have 45 years experience of my own, doesn’t that count for anything?

None of which had any relevance for the matter at hand: a seven-year-old boy and an open desert.
I looked around again. No, nothing, not even a mirage to camouflage what needed to be done.
“Can you hold it until we get a little farther?” I asked, eyeing the mountains in the distance.
Aviv shook his head.
There are many different customs concerning pee-ing in public. But for
the most part, if you’re seven or under and out in nature, well, you can
just let nature take its course.
“OK, then we’re just going to have to fall back and wait until everyone passes us.”
“What if they turn around and look?”
won’t,” I said, not entirely sure I was right (while at the same time
wondering when my seven-year-old became so self-conscious).
It took a long time for the group to pass the plane.
“Let’s do it. Now,” I said.
“I can’t,” Aviv said.
“No one’s looking. I promise.”
“No, I mean, I don’t have to anymore.”
may never know what goes on in the mind…and bladder of a
seven-year-old. But Aviv just started up again, running to catch the group, and leaving me to contemplate my, well…
I took advantage of the solitude and gave another thought to my
brilliant bathroom business. Maybe if I turned it into a guide for
locating crevices and cliffs when out in nature…


Have you gone on an interesting tiyul during Sukkot? Drop me an email and let me know!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous October 26, 2005 at 6:40 am

I just fixed the Comments functionality on the blog which has been broken for the past few weeks. So, anyone have any bathroom stories to share?
— Brian

2 Anonymous October 30, 2005 at 8:21 am

If you're ever in Boston:

3 Anonymous October 30, 2005 at 8:23 am

If you're ever in Boston: http://www.boston-online.com/restrooms/

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