Potty animals.

“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.

468 ad


  1. Oh, Donna. How much our great minds think alike. Well, you wanted a little adventure. You got it, honey! Funny, funny, LOL–rolling on the floor, funny!

  2. That last remark is one you should learn in French. I am howling in laughter with the back door open, waiting for the hens to come into their cage. Surely, the neighbors who decided to take advantage of the warmish weather are wondering….

    No, I would not be surprised to see “female toilet shower” on the door. My ex bil said he was taking a shower in a private residence but their was no commode in the room with the shower. There was no shower in the room with the commode. AND, they were on different floors of the house. In another home, they had to fetch a tub and fill it for him in the kitchen (Holland). When he wanted to bathe the next day, their response–“AGAIN? TODAY?”

    I was reading about getting a room in Europe, and the advice was to make certain that you got a commode and bathing facilities with you room if that is what you desire. The article made a point of saying you might be happy with one of the facilities down the hall. So, if I had seen that sign, I would just assume the facility was telling me that the room served double-duty.

    Of course, my assumption about the message I thought was being delivered is entirely wrong.

    You should have pointed and laughed. Or, gasped and asked him if he had an accident.

    We middle-aged women are the bane of the young man’s or older man’s existence! Yeah, the guys get old too. They just don’t face reality. And, you did face reality…ugly sight…lol.

  3. My assumption might have been wrong….what I meant.

  4. 🙂 try babelfish.yahoo.com
    “Hé, ce ressemble juste à un pénis, seulement plus petit” although I’m sure that’s probably not exactly right, he’d get the idea.

  5. I am laughing out loud right now!

    If you had mentioned that you were going to be staying in a ‘ youth ‘ hostel, I could have given you the older woman’s guide to navigating the world of shared toilets and unisex sleeping arraignments with people young enough to call you mama!

    And what you said below is way too funny, but only because I have done it myself. ” Continue to speak English, just louder, as though sheer volume were like the Universal Translator from “Star Trek.”

  6. OMG…I hope there are many more of these stories on your trip! Travel safe!

  7. Douche, Donna, douche! I literally laughed out loud and read the entire post to my husband!

  8. Ok, where do I subscribe to the photo blog?

    • Donna Freedman

      @Karen: Ha! Hadn’t thought of that. I’ll have to start taking my camera to the bathroom with me.

  9. Can I just say that the last comment about the “little wee-wee” made me laugh out loud??!

  10. Oh my! This post was FUNNY! I could especially appreciate the part about Americans yelling louder when faced with someone who speaks another language. I have seen many, many people do it. Hilarious!

  11. Mollymouser

    Donna, I believe the phrase you were looking for is: “Hé, qui regarde juste comme un pénis, seulement plus petit.” (grin)

    No need to thank me. heh heh heh

  12. Hahaha… when I was in Luxemborg trying to communicate I kept lapsing into Spanish… completely useless, of course. I did not have that problem in Germany though… in Germany I couldn’t even tell where a word ended or began.

  13. Oh yes, the French bathe, but I think they only do so in hostels in the British Isles. When I was in a hostel in Ireland a few summers ago, getting a shower was damn near impossible, what with the gaggle of teenage French girls who were backpacking – without ever leaving the same town, somehow. I started to suspect their enormous backpacks were simply full of shampoo for the hostel shower.

    This post made me laugh. I hope that, despite the pissants, you’re having a great trip.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Schmei: I’m having a swell time. Spent a chunk of the day at the National Portrait Gallery after meeting with Laura from NoMoreSpending.net.
      Thanks for reading.

  14. lostAnnfound

    LMAO! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your adventures while on vacation. I look forward to each post!

  15. I consider myself game for almost anything when traveling. But I draw the line at coed sleeping arrangements and iffy bathroom accommodations, when others are available. I think I’d have saved a few more $$$ and waited a little longer. Some of this just seems unsafe to me. I enjoy reading you and hope to for a long time. Please try to stay safe. Not everybody is nice.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Trixie: We all have our “nope, not for me” points. For some people a private room is a dealbreaker. To me the hostel is worth it because I can stay over here for three weeks instead of one.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  16. I love you. Sorry to say that I laughed at you, no I mean with you again. And again you get an A for “Universal Translator from “Star Trek.” Anytime you can work a Sci-fi reference in, you get an A+ for the day.

  17. I lol’ed several times. Thanks.

  18. Oh my! I’m laughing so hard, coffee came out of my nose! Donna, it sounds like you’re having a wonderful adventure.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Carol: These first few days have been fun. On Monday I go to Cardiff via the Megabus. Let’s see how that plays out.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  19. ImJuniperNow


    Repeat after me –

    He’, qui ressemble un penis seulement petites

  20. you have no idea how hard you made me laugh and I really needed that now with multiple traumas in my life. What a doll you are and thank you so much! Almost peeeeeed myself 😉

    • Donna Freedman

      @Barb: Quick! Find yourself a bathroom without a dude in it!
      Thanks for your kind words, and for leaving a comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *