When I was with Shellnutt in Italy, she told me about how she went to a concert a couple weeks ago and instead of porta-potties or outhouses, they had ‘turkish toilets’. She told me to keep a look out for one, and that I would know it when I saw it. She said they were dirty and seemed like something a complete bone-head had put together in a pinch for his engineering class.
Assignment: Provide an alternative to digging a hole in the ground and shitting in it.
After arriving in Turkey I found that this term was a sore spot for many. Yes, they have them in Turkey. But they do in other countries too. My Turkish friends felt that it was an unfair association placed upon the Turkish people. Turkish delights - yes, Turkish coffee - yes, Turkish Bathes - yes, Turkish toilet - NO.
After an interesting bus ride from Thessaloniki to Istanbul, I met my hosts roommate/cousin on the sidewalk in front of a hospital. After leading me through a concrete labyrinth we ended up in front of the correct dilapidated building. When we got up the dark narrow staircases and inside the puzzle of locks that were bolting the metal door frame shut, I was given the tour.
“This is the bathroom” he said.
I peak my head inside. It is covered from ceiling to floor with slimy grime covered tiles. The air is warm and moist from a recent shower. On my right sits a sink, a blue squeegee lays beneath, its neighbor is a small cement hole in the floor. A window at my eye level has city air being drawn in through a thick mesh screen. Grey wings, guts, dryer lint and red string intwined with corse black public hair. Rusting silver towel hooks jet out, all at different heights. On the same wall as the door there is a shower head coming out from the top of the wall. Beneath it is a tarnished silver knob, a worn sticker is pealing off. Faded. Blue on one side, red on the other. Beads of condensation have formed and are smacking the floor. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Streaks of dry patches lead to the cement hole beside the squeegee. I turn my head back to my host and smile.
“You wear these” he says while pointing to a pair of mens slip on sandals. Something you’d find in a dollar store bargain bin. They are wet. He takes one step to his right and opens a door directly beside the bathroom. It has a small frame, much like a linen closet. He holds the door open for me to peek inside. He continues to the kitchen. I stay and observe.
“Use the bucket under the tap to wash it down”
At this point I know I should be following him into the kitchen, or turning around and taking a seat in the living room. But instead I stand there, transfixed on the myth, the Turkish toilet.
Yellowish brown stains decorate each wall, darker at the bottom, fading in their assent. There is a hole in the floor. This is not like the bathroom hole. This one is porcelain. Specifically planned, meant to be here. On either side of the hole there are grips. I conclude that this is where you put your feet. Foot grips. Beside your right foot there is a white bucket with a smaller white plastic bowl inside. Above the bucket there is a tap coming out from the wall. I believe the same tap is attached to my garden hose at home. To your right, behind the hole, there is a garbage can. It was full. It had pieces of toilet paper crumpled up inside of it. Damp yellow pieces, brown smears, crusted mucous coatings.
“Do you just put your toilet paper in the garbage can?” I ask without moving my gaze.
“Yeah and if it's full just leave it, one of the guys can dump it, you don’t have to do it”
I return back to the pro and con list that has been forming in my head.
‘Pro: my stuff is already here, a free place to stay, this may just be a joke and his real apartment is just around the corner, maybe he has a hot roommate. Con: I have to combine a strength training exercise, target practice and skillful foot placement into any body expulsion.
Every morning around 9 a.m. I was greeted by a large toothy woman who spoke no english. When she raised her gaze to find out that it was me again, her face would contort in such a way that all the wrinkles on one side would gather up tightly by her right eye, her pudgy cheeks pushed up by the corners of her mouth. She reached into a drawer below her desk, grabbed a silver key attached to a large wooden block with the number one carved into it. I smiled, confident in my new schedule, took the key from her chubby little fingers and walked proudly into the tourist bureau’s public washrooms.