Fight for Your Right to Pee

Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now!” The overnight bus ride is quickly coming to an end and I am resisting the urge to pee my pants. I am twelve hours in, have slept maybe 4 hours last night and drank a good 2 liters of water. Sure the bus has a bathroom in the rear but at this point in the ride the smell of so many unexpected turns in the road is leaking into the cabin. We finally reach our destination and I burst out of the bus and casually jog to the bus terminal’s bathroom.

I pay my 5 Baht and enter the turn style to the bathroom. I am not the first to arrive. In front of me maybe 30 other women are crowding in, pushing their way to be closest to the 15 occupied stalls. My bladder may be full but I am still a lady so I find a place in the crowd and slowly inch my way forward. After a while it becomes apparent that I am not getting any closer to the bathroom. This crowd of Thai women, many elderly and all at least a foot and a half shorter than me seem to be moving en masse around me leaving no possible opening for advancement. Every once in a while one will squeeze right passed me, throwing elbows to get in front. Starting to become concerned I realize that it’s not just me, the awkward foreigner, who is being left in the dust. They are even competing with the small girls. Grandma’s butting in front of 7-year-olds so she can pee before them!

A tingle of cultural indignation starts to rise within me. What kind of a society doesn’t queue to pee? Have they no sense of decency? Usually an accepting traveler, I always try to see the local side of things and not judge but in this instance the pressure in my bladder fogs all reason and I get really pissed off.

Ok Thai ladies, if that’s how you want to play let’s see what this gangly whitey has to offer. Tapping my high school soccer days I position myself in front of one of the stalls, ready to check whoever comes close. You really need to pick one and stick with it because if you are any further than 3 inches away from the opening someone will butt in front of you. With my right foot out to assert my space I stare intently at the lock, waiting for it to turn. God, who is in there and why on earth are they taking so long? Finally the door opens and just as I swoop, heart racing, a tiny women in her 60’s literally hurdles over my leg and disappears all in one motion into the free stall. I am way out of my league.

Ten minutes have passed and I still haven’t made any progress. I have to admit defeat. I imagine if I was raised here, constantly having to fight for the right to pee I may have developed the skills these women have, but I am clearly no match. I retreat, pushing my way back out through the crowd, out the turn style and into the bus terminal. Bladder full and 5 Baht poorer I stumble onto the streets of Bangkok in search of another place to pee.

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