As a TV news reporter who is often stuck in a live truck for 8 hours a day, I’m accustomed to questionable bathrooms; gas stations, fast food joints, porta-potties, you name it. That being said, I’ve still had some, let’s call them unique, experiences with public restrooms in Spain.
1. It’s mid-morning and we’re on a train to Madrid. I’m generally not fond of using bathrooms on trains or planes. They smell awful, they’re tiny and they have strange rules. But, ya know, it’s not exactly something you can always avoid. So, I checked the little light that says “WC,” it’s green meaning it’s currently unoccupied. I left my seat, walked back to the tiny little closet and opened the door. Wrong! There’s a person sitting there!
What I learned: It’s a strange thing to make eye contact with a stranger on the toilet.
Word of advice: Lock the door, come on people.
2. We were at restaurant in Valencia known for is authentic paella. It was a lovely little place filled with locals and beautiful tiles along the walls. I asked our waiter where the bathroom was (in my perfect Spanish) and he directed me around the corner. I got up and walked into a second dining area and with a quick scan of the room I notice there are no doors that would seemingly lead to a restroom. Another waiter then sees me, looking confused, and points to a white sheet. Honestly, just a white sheet hanging on the side of the dining room. no way, I think to myself, it can’t be. I pulled back the curtain and you guessed it, a toilet and a teeny tiny sink. Ugh.
What I learned: It’s quite peculiar to pee next to someone who’s eating.
Word of advice: Doors: buy them.
3. At this point, the two aforementioned events have made me even more resistant to using public toilets. The next train we’re on, I avoid using the restroom but then need to immediately after we arrive at the station. I find the bathroom and discover it’s blocked by magic glass doors that want money. I reach into my pocket and assess the situation: 50 cents. I look up and see the sign that says entry costs 60 cents. Great. I can’t even afford to pee.
What I learned: Don’t skip the free train toilets
Word of advice: Free bathrooms are a kindness.
4. After two beers and a mile of walking in Madrid, I was desperate for a bathroom. I insisted we stop at a tiny tapas bar in the dirtiest part of the city we’d seen all day. Jared ordered two drinks and the barkeeper frowned when we asked where the bathroom was. The grumpy man pointed to an even unhappier looking set of stairs. It can’t be that bad, I thought to myself as I ran down them. The cellar was dark and cold and smelled like mold and other things I have no interest in describing. Behind an open door there’s just a toilet and no lights, not even any evidence that there ever was a light. I step in and close the door only for it to swing back open. I balance my iPhone flashlight with one hand, while holding the door closed with the other – costs were analyzed, priorities considered and decisions made.
What I learned: Some things are better left in the dark.
Word of advice: Lightbulbs, buy them, (see also: advice #2).