Israel Stories

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Restroom

Oscar Wilde once said ‘we are all lying in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’.

They say you can always tell a good hotel by the state of its toilets. And lets face it if you are going to be caught short; a five star hotel is the place to be. These hotels certainly top the restroom league when it comes to local water closet comfort.

That’s where I found myself last week, in one of Jerusalem’s five star hotels. I headed quickly, always keeping my composure and looking as official as possible, to the toilets. It’s a funny thing, using hotel toilets, and restaurant toilets for that matter. Really they are for patrons. Some people have trouble walking into a restaurant to use the facilities. In the UK it was never an option, but here in Israel if you actually grit your teeth or cross your legs instead of using a restaurant toilets you’re a real frier.

Hotels are a little different and most people can easily, and in a relaxed manner walk straight in (passed security) and make a b-line straight for the bogs.

Along the far wall of this particular restroom were three urinals. Now women never have this problem but in men’s toilets there is the issue of urinal etiquette. For example always use the one nearest the corner. Never use the middle one and never, never, never stand between two men. If there are three urinals and the outer two are occupied, wait or use a booth.

And so the situation arose with me. With urinal one and three being occupied I found an empty booth. Entered and locked the door, no one wants someone shoving the door open when you are standing there, it can be painful and embarrassing. I’ll leave that to your imagination or ask the first available man.

As I tried to leave the booth I found the lock wasn’t working. The first thing to do was use that multi-purpose tool that every dati man has upon his person, a silver kippa clip. First I tried to pick the lock, then to unscrew it and finally to try and force the lock.

No luck. So the next option was scaling the door and climbing over, except there was very little space for me to climb through, and, as athletic and nimble as I am I still couldn’t do it.

Finally the last option open to me. I waited and as soon as I heard a flush and door unlock I shouted for help.

“Hello, can you help me, I am trapped in the toilet and the lock is broken.”

“I am sorry, I do not speak Ivrit I am French.”

“Hello, can you help me, I am trapped in the toilet and the lock is broken.”

“I am sorry, I do not speak English I am French.”

“CAN YOU GET HELP!” I shouted in English

“I am sorry, I do not speak English I am French.”


“I am sorry, I do not speak English I am French.”

For some reason the thought of King Saul failing to kill Amalek and Wellington failing to finish of the job at Waterloo came to mind.

“ASSISTANCE!” I shouted in a French accent. Well the word sounded like it could be French.

Then I was hit with a barrage of French and the man left. All went quiet. I sat there waiting for the flush from a booth and the squeak of the toilet door signaling another potential lifeline.

Then I heard the unmistakable sound of a tool box being set down by my door. A little bit of scratching and the door suddenly flew open.

“There is nothing wrong with this door!” the maintenance man grumbled.

“But it wouldn’t open, see I’ll show you. I closed the door, locked it and once again confined myself to my restroom prison.

Then I heard the maintenance in a cool and calculating voice explain the problem.

“In our toilets the doors swing out and not in!”

Sometimes, even if nobody pushes the door open, it can still be painful and embarrassing.


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