No. 120 – The German Bathroom Lady

*If you don’t know what a ‘German Bathroom Lady’ is you should probably first go back and read 10 Things You Should Know about Europe.

All caught up? Good.

Yes, well, as I said, things could get worse. And it wasn’t just on me this time, the whole family was involved. How is this possible? Settle in.

We were in Luxembourg, a small, wealthy, cliff-ed country in Europe. They do a lot of banking stuff, help run all of Europe through some European Union group that’s headquartered there, I forget what it’s called…anyway, it’s sort of a fancy place. Even the house we were staying in was inside some kind of World Heritage site that we couldn’t get into without a special code to drop a pylon with glowing red lights into the cobbled street allowing us to drive up the hill.

The actual pylon:

Notice how it appears to mock you, almost like a sentient being…

Pylons were not our friend in general.

Walking through the financial district (which seemed to be the only district) my son briefly brushed against a different metal pylon sticking up out of the street in some kind of town square. Inexplicably, it tipped over and clattered to the ground with the loudest sound you have probably heard in a good while. All foot traffic stopped and stared at the tourists who had broken part of their city.

A man close to us in a business suit raised his eyebrows and rubbed his finger and thumb together to indicate ‘expensive’ and burst our laughing. Others joined in. My son was mortified. I’m pretty sure the man was joking with us but we ‘fixed’ the pylon and hurried a long just the same.

It’s not a big place, so there’s only so many things do to once you’ve broken the downtown core and aren’t able to safely return. But it just so happened that there was this fair going on that weekend that had been held for like the last 600 years on the edge of town. Probably a few less roller coasters in year 1, more like a giant sheep throwing contest or something instead, but it was a sight to see now.

You know those little side shows where carnies make you throw a penny into a floating dish or knock concrete ‘milk bottles’ over, and all of the prizes are $5 Made-in-Taiwan stuffed animals the size of a 12 year old? Luxembourg doesn’t do stuffed animals. They had a ton of these booths, and they had APPLE products as prizes. And I don’t mean iPod shuffles, we’re talking full iMacs sitting there.

And MOTORCYCLES hanging in them like bunches of grapes.

Don’t believe me? I wouldn’t. And yet:

Nuts, right?

The other thing that was obvious after about 5 minutes is that this entire thing was being run (very efficiently) by Germans. Traveling Europe we saw this all over, especially as we got closer to Christmas. They are VERY good at setting up SMALL BUILDINGS everywhere and loading them up with nutcrackers and beer and winerbrizelschlaffen-type stuff.

They were also staffing the bathrooms, and this particular bathroom was fruitlessly gender-separated in that in the center of the two halves was the bathroom lady’s office and she had both doors thrown wide open. It was the first time I was ever washing my hands in the men’s bathroom and able to look to my left and see my wife and daughters washing their hands about 20 feet away on the women’s side.

Also this bathroom was busy, bustling, and bursting with people who had to unload all that beer and winerbrizelschlaffen. So while I was wrapping up with drying my hands, I saw a number of things in quick succession:

(picture a towering woman with Nordic features, bursting out of her office into the men’s room to confront some teenage boys)

GERMAN BATHROOM LADY:  “Waz gut?” (apparently inquiring after the quality of their very recent bowel movements)

TEEN BOYS: (looking at each other for an awkward moment): “Uh..ya!” (they say in unison)

GERMAN BATHROOM LADY: (moves to open the door of one of the stalls recently freed up, gestures to a man waiting) “Here! Here!” (he reluctantly enters and she closes him in)

Then she did something really weird: she grabbed a middle aged man (who appeared to be single?) and she told him to ‘wait here’ in German, and then she went and ‘found’ a single lady from the other side and BROUGHT HER INTO THE MEN’S ROOM so that they could meet.

Most awkward thing ever.

So awkward that my son, whom I was waiting for and as a result got to see this public restroom matchmaking happen, in his desperation to finish up and leave this bathroom forever, forgot to flush the toilet.

This did not go unnoticed by you know who.

She pounced on every stall the moment it was vacated to fill it with another needful patron of her kingdom. And yet my son had failed to follow protocol.

She wheeled on him and yelled at him in German. His attempt to escape before something exactly like this happened had backfired, horribly. Again, everyone in Luxembourg stopped to stare and laugh at him.

He had broken Luxembourg, again.

He offered a ‘Uh, oh, sorry, I forgot’ in English and then fled for his life.

I also fled.

For the rest of our trip, every time our son knocked something over or caused any measure of damage anywhere, we’d cry, “Oh no, Ben broke [INSERT COUNTRY]!”

We visited 25 countries on our trip, I’d say that he ‘broke’ at least 15 of them…

My son was 11 at the time of the above story. Ironically I also first visited a foreign bathroom at the age of 11, though this time it was in Russia