A few months after graduating college, my best friend was living in Lyon and I had been working and saving money, so it seemed like a good time to go to Europe and travel for a few weeks together. While we spent a lot of our trip obsessing over 2 boys (me – the shy Indian next door, her – the French boy in her lab who didn’t get her hints), one of the highlights of our trip was Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 small villages on the Italian Riviera. The villages are connected by ferries, trails and train, but no highways. It’s picturesque, quaint, and when I went, untainted with very little tourism. We spent our days walking the trails (and talking about our crushes), sitting in cafes (and talking about our crushes), and window shopping (while talking about….well, you know by now).
We were in a cafe having tea when the topic of conversation switched to squat toilets (don’t ask me why, I don’t remember). My best friend was astonished I had never even seen one, let alone used one. All the tea and talk of toilets made me hear nature’s call, so I went looking for the restroom. I enter and what do I see…a squat toilet. My 22 year old brain could not wrap my head around using it. I just couldn’t*. I run out and told my friend who, after laughing, offered a solution.
We were planning to head over to the next village, why don’t we go down to the train station? There were bound to be restrooms there. At this point, we have drank a lot of tea and I’m fairly uncomfortable. This is made worse as we had to bounce down a significant amount of stairs to get to the station. I ran in the restroom to find…4 squat toilets. Now I’m in agony and in a panic.
Suddenly we see a train come up. My friend yells “let’s get on the train, they will have a bathroom”. So, like only careless 22 year olds can do, we jumped on a train, having no idea where it was headed, just to use the bathroom. We both used the facilities and got off at the next stop, which thankfully was the next town over.
The ride was so short, we actually ended up riding for free because by the time we got out of the bathroom, we were at the village. We never saw a conductor. Later in the day, we ran into a family on the platform. They were trying to get back to their hotel but kept getting stuck on express trains that went passed it. We had managed to randomly jump on a rare local.
We are still very close friends and still have a good laugh about it to this day. And what happened to the boys we were crushing on, you ask? Turns out, we both married them!
*After several trips in Asia, I’ve since gotten over my fear of squat toilets