When you’re new to a foreign country, it’s very important to understand the bathrooms. Forget knowing the language, forget culture shock, forget not getting lost on your way from the airport. Peeing is a basic animal function that transcends all cultural barriers. No matter how civilized we pretend to be, sooner or later (depending on your fluid intake, among other things), we all need to unzip our pants and spray our body fluids all over the place (this is how humans pee, right?). When the bathroom is full of people and there’s a line that snakes its way out into the hallway, it doesn’t matter who knows what language, or who has this much money, or who may or may not be a Korean pop star cleverly disguised as a 16 year old girl. In the bathroom, we are all united by this primal need.
Fortunately, the university I was attending had the western type toilets that Americans are so fond of. If they had been Asian squat toilets (more on those later), this incident probably would have been much, much worse. Thank Cthulhu for small favors, I suppose. Either way, the line to get in there was ridiculously long, I only had ten minutes before my next class, and it was the end of December and the buildings in Shanghai aren’t heated very well, so I was actually shivering. When it was my turn, I wasn’t thinking about properly locking the door, or the possibility that I might not succeed at locking the door. I was too busy wondering if there was still enough feeling in my fingertips to unzip my pants. I ran into the stall, turned the handle into what I thought was the locked position, and went to work.
I was halfway finished peeing when the door flew open.
Had I given the lock a second glance, it would have been glaringly obvious that it wasn’t locked. The people in my head will laugh about this forever. As it was, some Asian girl got to see a surprised looking American crouched on the toilet she had planned on peeing in right before the door slammed in her face.
I’m sure it made her day.