“FEMALE TOILET SHOWERS” is painted on the door of the bathroom near my room at the hostel. If you had the same reaction to “toilet shower” that I did, please write and let me know that I am not alone.
Two toilets are available, each in its own little room. The showers are off to the left. Important safety note if you plan to stay at a hostel: When a sign notes that there may be hot water shortages between 8 and 10 a.m., believe that sign.
This morning when I walked in, the first thing I saw was someone standing in front of a toilet. Facing the wrong way. And offloading.
“Sir, this is the ladies’ toilet,” I said.
He said something in French, which I don’t speak.
The door to the other toilet opened and another man came out. He gave me an embarrassed smile and began scolding his compatriot. I believe it was along the lines of “Shut the door, dude, an old lady just walked in!”
I said, “Sir, this is for women. Femmes.” (Okay, so I do speak about six words of French. I can’t pronounce it for merde, though.)
What did he just call me?
The second guy opened the door and looked at the words painted there. “Fee-male,” he said aloud. “Fee-male…femmes.” He grinned at me, a little shamefaced.
His fellow pissant zipped up, shrugged and walked out. Without washing his hands or flushing, I might add.
The other guy said, “Excuse.”
I said, “I’m a grown woman. It’s OK.”
A few minutes later I walked back toward my room and saw the pee-with-the-door-open guy approaching.
“Douche!” he called.
I was about to return the sentiment, with maybe a hand gesture thrown in for good measure, when I realized he was looking for a place to bathe. (And here we’ve been told that French people don’t do that. Another stereotype busted.) Again, I don’t speak the language but I know that much.
No hablo el Frencho
“Douche?” he repeated, making a noise like a shower. Damn stupid monolingual Americans.
“En el otro lado…I mean, on the other side,” I said, waving toward the other part of the building.
One of the most frustrating things I’ve learned about myself on this trip: When faced with someone with whom I can’t communicate, I lapse into my minimal Spanish. My only other option is to do what most Americans do: Continue to speak English, just louder, as though sheer volume were like the Universal Translator from “Star Trek.”
That guy will probably go home lamenting that middle-aged American women have invaded the hostel. What was a dumpy broad wearing turquoise-colored sweatpants, an Ani DiFranco T-shirt and sandals from Kmart doing in a place formerly peopled by lithe women in their early 20s who walk back from the douche wrapped in skimpy towels?
He’s lucky that I didn’t know the French for, “Hey, that looks just like a penis, only smaller!” Maybe that would teach him to close the door.