God Forbid if you have to go to the bathroom in Italy train stations.
First of all, they are scarce and hard to find. There is usually only one bathroom, and these train stations are huge! Train stations are the size of malls, with many shops and restaurants, a ticket office, and 10-20 train tracks and platforms.
The only bathroom is usually 3/4 way down the length of the station where the dozen or so train platforms are. You never know which side of tracks the bathroom is on.
Finding the bathroom is difficult enough when you have to pee, but then walking half a kilometer to get to it while crossing your legs is no easy task. The sense of urgency can be intense.
But…. but… when you get there and see a locked gate which demands that “One Euro” be inserted into the slot in order to enter, the sense of urgency heightens to new dimensions!
Then, after digging into your pocket or purse while holding it in, and trying to ignore the cramps in your stomach, you discover that you do not have a euro coin, you become altogether desperate.
Walking back half a kilometer to get change feels impossible, but the choice is yours. Pee your pants (or worse), or suck it up and walk to find change.
Whatever you do, don’t cough, or sneeze or laugh! Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.
Once, after I was wise to the Pay to Pee system, and made sure I went for change before I walked a mile to the toilet, I put my coin in but the gate would not open!
I put another coin in and it still would not open! Wiggling and squirming uncomfortably, I searched for another Euro – nada again!
There were two gates. Someone had just gone through the other gate, so I tried that gate. The coin rattled through. The gate did NOT open.
Wretched, I searched around for someone who might help. Surely they have attendants at these gates? I was fuming mad, when an attendant walked nonchalantly back carrying a coffee.
I explained to the attendant what happened – that I had used 4 Euros already with no success. She did not speak English. She did not seem to care much either. She signed as she set down her coffee and walked over to the machine, pointing at the coin slot.
I took out another Euro and put it in. Nothing happened. She looked surprised. She shook the machine. Then held out her hand for another Euro. Really? I gave her another Euro. I had to go bad – what else can you do?
She swore in Italian when the coin didn’t work, and held her hand out for another one. It was the last one I had! Finally, the gate lifted.
Stomping mad and spitting nails, I walked back half a mile to where T was waiting, expounding with fury on the ridiculous experience I just been subjugated to! It cost me $12 C to pee! Utterly preposterous.
Another time I gave two distraught old ladies the two euro to get into the bathroom.
How bizarre is this system? Not much phases me while travelling – I’m used to snags here and there. It’s just to be expected. But I was furious with this process.
What if you had a child that needed to use the bathroom quickly? Or 3 small children, like a man T witnessed, frantically fumbling for change while his children wriggled and whimpered. What if you had diarrhea???
Unbelievable that you have to walk miles to find the one bathroom in a huge facility for hundreds of people, but astounding that you have to pay to use a restroom. I recall reading somewhere that holding it for long periods is also unhealthy.
“Pay to Pee” – that’s what the label on toilets in Italian Train Stations should say.
But it can always be worse. To add insult to injury, some toilets in Italy only have a squat pan…
Yes, it can always be worse…