Friday, January 9, 2009

Why We Are in 411

There is one subject that I really prefer to ignore.

It's bathrooms. Well, I really don't mind talking about baths, I love them. I can soak forever in a tub, reading a spy thriller, sipping brandy and having a cigar. That is my idea of heaven on Earth.

It's the other thing. I suppose it shouldn't bother me, I think most people in the world do it. Except for Grace Kelly, I don't think she ever went to the bathroom. And maybe Queen Elizabeth, I think she needs to go, but she has just been holding it for years.

For me, though, I'm a very shy and private person.

I hate public bathrooms. If I can avoid them, I do. I'll squirm my way through the second act of most shows and drive like hell home if I have to. I like the kind of small restaurants (usually in renovated homes) which have "home bathrooms", one seat, locking door, no visitors.

There must be a lot of people who don't mind it at all. If everyone felt like me, there would be no multiple seat open facilities.

I'm not totally clear what bothers me, but perhaps it's that I don't want anyone else to know. I'm grown up enough to admit that I do go to the bathroom, I just have a real problem having people know exactly when. One of my childhood terrors, which I haven't outgrown, was having to produce a "u" sample for the doctor. If I had gone to the bathroom at anytime during the day before going to the doctor's office, I was doomed. I would drink gallons of water at the office, go into the bathroom and know that all of the nurses and doctors were waiting outside, listening. Nothing would happen and I would come out embarrassed and disappointed, everyone nodding. Eventually, they would give my Mom the container, we would start home and I'd be wriggling, crying and dancing before the car got to our drive way. At 54, it's no better now.

Even at home, I'm very private. I check that the front door is locked, close every other door possible between the bathroom and the outside world, and clear the bathroom of all people and animals.

Karen is even more private on this than me.

So, in Prague, we had a stupendous suite overlooking the river, with a view to the castle. It had a balcony, a separate living room, a small WC (a bathroom, without the bath) and a separate huge bathroom which, seriously, was bigger than the suite we had on the boat. The bathroom had a large double sink, a large shower room, a step up platform with a huge soaking tub, and a WC, with an etched glass door. The etchings were interesting and Karen's initial (unthinking) reaction was "that's very beautiful, we should have something like that in our bathroom." Of course, in between the etchings was see-through glass and looking at that was one of those times that I DID here the ominous music playing in the background. By that, I mean the scary organ music that the kids in slasher movies never hear when the say things like "I know Jimmy and Sally have been killed, but I feel like some popcorn and I think I saw a popcorn maker in the dark, damp cellar, I think I'll go get it."

We never actually discussed it, but neither of us would go into the Grand Central Station-sized bathroom when the other was there unless it was by invitation, as in, "Do you need to brush your teeth? That's all I'm doing right now."

So, we come into Oslo late at night (another story), get a taxi to our hotel, arrive there close to midnight and check in. The receptionist is very nice and gives us the key to Room 105. Now, on a separate note, we like to have the highest floor possible, both because of the view and being away from noise. We asked and he said that was all they had. Fine, it's late and we're tired.

We walk down the hall and enter the room. It was very nice, modern, seriously Scandinavian and clean. The bed looked lovely and inviting, white comforter over a beautiful large soft mattress. But what really caught our eyes was the bathroom. The sink was towards the front of the bathroom, the shower to one side, and the "throne" was in the middle of the bathroom. The reason we knew this as we entered the hotel room was because there were windows (I'm not kidding, plural) ringing the bathroom. It was kind of like having a Fotomat Kiosk in the middle of your hotel room dedicated to things we don't like to talk about. Actually, it might not be a bad idea for a Fotomat, I've never been clear on how those people go to the bathroom.

Now, I've heard about those bathrooms in Vegas where there is see-through glass when the light is off and you can see-in to determine whether it is occupied. Then, when you go in and turn on the light, you can see out and "supposedly" no one else can see in. Of course, there is no way in Hell I'd ever use a bathroom like that.

This Norwegian hotel bathroom didn't even pretend to have that feature. Lights on, lights off, you still had a stellar view from the throne, Lord over all that you survey. No curtains, no closing doors or walls, just clear glass and open view.

We thought we could stack our suitcases, I offered to take long walks, eventually Karen decided that the situation was "untenable" which I think is Oxford English for "the bathroom doesn't work", and she marched to the reception. They reluctantly placed us in the "old wing," apologizing for the decor. We loved it, the decor includes a solid door to the bathroom, which has no windows.

This was the bathroom!

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