Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Potty break

I have a million travel memories in my head. They float in and out at random, distracting me for a split second from whatever it is I'm doing. I'll smile and think, "I really need to write this down,"... but never do.  Motivation evades me. Time continues to move on and the memories start to fade.

Twenty-two months have gone by since my time in 'Nam.  Nearly two years. Two years of new memories pushing my Vietnamese experiences further back into the dark crevices of my mind. Followed closely by all the other countries I visited after it.

What once were images full of vibrant colors are slowly becoming bullet points:
  • Wasted money on Easy Rider tour - minus the great food we had along the way.
  • Spent two days in Nha Trang, aka. Little Russia. 
    • Note to self: never visit a town that has a direct flight from the Motherland.
Yet, there are still some moments that have held strong, where the ink hasn't faded as quickly. One such is my evening get-away from Nha Trang.

It was a bus not unlike all the other buses in Vietnam. Sleeper-bed style. Except this one was old. And crowded.

Refresher: Vietnamese buses have three rows of bunk bed seats, for your sleeping comfort, allowing two aisles that nearly reach the back of the bus. At the tail end of the bus are bunked, cushioned, pallets accommodating up to five people.

The top bunk at the end of the bus looked enticing, minus the duct tape holding the entire thing together. There I joined three other female travelers. That made four of us on a five person bed, allowing a bit of space to move around. It was idyllic.

We were just getting comfortable when the driver's assistant commanded a little Vietnamese man to share the back bunk with us. The selfish side of me begrudgingly allowed my compassionate side to move over so the little man wouldn't have to spend the entire 11 hour trip laying in the aisle. Noting his size as he positioned himself between me and the wall of the bus, I imagined still having plenty of space to be comfortable. Little did I know, he would sprawl himself on top of me throughout the duration of the ride regardless of his stature.

In the midst of swatting away his arm or leg, I'd routinely have to brace myself from sliding off the leather cushions every time the breaks were applied. It was a near rhythmic dance routine.

But if that wasn't torture enough, a few hours in, I had to pee. But the half way point would be coming up soon enough, I reasoned, and we'd definitely have a potty break.

As 12:30 came and went, I realized my calculations were incorrect. I watched as people slept around me. We'll stop by 1:30, I told myself. But that came and went as well. Still no break. At least not for us. The driver did stop long enough for his assistant to hop out and grab a soda from a night-time street vendor.

Two O'clock, I concluded. It had to be 2:00 when we were going to stop. I was in such pain I mentally willed the driver to stop by then.

It didn't work.

Two became 2:30. I had enough. I had to ask. But I had no clue how I was going to move myself off the top bunk, all the way to the front of the bus without leaving a trail of urine down the aisle.

Miraculously I managed.  There I stood at the front of the bus nearly doubled over in discomfort and asked the driver's assistant when we were going to have a bathroom break.

He looked at me blankly and waved me away.

"Oh, nuh-uh!" I exclaimed.  In my head.

I repeated my question a second time. Clarifying it with the words: toilet, WC, potty, pee.

He stuck his miserable little hand up. Five.

"Five what?!" I demanded. "Five minutes? Five o'clock? Five hours?"

The driver looked over and asked me what I wanted.

"When are we stopping for the bathroom?" I repeated myself once more.

"Uh... soon," he responded.

I heaved a sigh. Of pacification? Of annoyance? Of being overwhelmed with the thought of having to waddle all the way back to the end of the bus without bursting at the seams?


Fifteen minutes later the bus stopped at the side of the road.

I somehow managed to run off the bus, being one of the first on solid ground.

"Where's the bathroom?" I asked.

The driver... or was it the assistant... shrugged his shoulders and indicated to the left and right with his head.

It was nearly 3:00 in the morning on a two way, moderately trafficked street. We hadn't stopped at a typical rest area. On either side of the road were sidewalks lined with evening street vendors. Behind them, row houses as far as the eye could see.

Anywhere, he was motioning. Pick a spot. Give the night vendors a show.

I probably grumbled something. I can't really remember. It has nearly been two years after all. But knowing myself, I most likely didn't bite my tongue.

I went across the street, on the other side of the bus, in search of somewhere with even the tiniest bit of privacy. That came in the form of two white maintenance vans parked next to each other. It was in between them that I found my make-shift toilet, which was subsequently used by all the other female passengers in dire need to relieve themselves.

When I walked back to my spot on the bus, I heaved another sigh. But this time it was of relief.


Bryce Balsley said...

A some memories are priceless....if sometimes painful

Patti said...

Score! I took a peek and found this new memory. I can painfully relate, but my story ended a rest stop with a potty. When you gotta go, any place will do.