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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sage Advice

“Never pass up a chance to take a leak.”

Actually, it wasn’t anonymous who coined that sage bit of advice. Anonymous gets credit for a lot of stuff he didn’t come up with himself, the thieving Greek pirate. Anyone who knows me will recognize that wise counsel as something that I often attribute to my grandfather. My grandfather didn’t come up with it either. I just attributed it to him so as to give the words a bit more weight. I was the one who came up with what could possibly be the best advice you’re ever going to get in this life.

There is an episode of Seinfeld in which George shows off his encyclopedic knowledge of good public restrooms in Manhattan. I don’t know Manhattan very well but the rest of America has a pretty good reservoir of good public bathrooms. I think that George’s proclivity for finding good bathrooms in Europe would be a more valuable talent as they are fairly rare over here.

This isn’t such a big problem for me for several reasons. First of all, and I don’t know whether or not I have revealed this little secret to you, but I am a boy, and boys have decidedly greater options when you are talking about good public bathrooms. We have a different definition of “good” than that of most women. We also have a much different definition of “public” which at times means just that, public, as in “exposed to general view” as opposed to “accessible to or shared by all members of the community.” I’m not an animal; I don’t pee in public in the city, but let’s just say that when I am out in the country, finding a bathroom never seems to be a problem. The Spanish countryside: The world’s biggest toilet. It’s not a slogan that you are likely to read in one of those stuffy, Conde Nast travel publications, but it is the truth. When I am out bike riding I am forced to ignore my own advice of never passing up a chance to take a leak. If I didn’t, I would never get anywhere.

As far as locating a good public bathroom, downtown Valencia provides a bigger challenge than the great outdoors. Of course, every bar and café has a restroom, but they expect them to be used only by paying customers. Buying a coffee or beer just to use the restroom seems like bailing out your boat instead of fixing the leak, if you will pardon the pun. When I speak about public restrooms, I mean those where you can just walk in without being expected to buy anything or in a place that is big enough that no one will notice that you are not an actual customer. The second reason that this issue isn’t such a big deal with me is that I seem to have an extra large bladder. It probably fills up the area in my body where decorum and taste are usually found. I suppose that you are able to tell from this essay that I was born without those two human essentials.

At times I am utterly dumbfounded by the lack of public facilities. At large, outdoor public events there seems to be no nod towards this consideration. I have boarded trains at the Valencia Estación del Norte many times and only when I was returning from my last trip did I discover the whereabouts of the restrooms there (on the north side). The good news is that there are bathrooms on the trains. I can only think of one public restroom in all of Valencia: downstairs at the Mercado Colon (and the recently uncovered facilities at the station). That’s it. There are probably more. Where is George Costanza when you need him?

So my advice to you is to never pass up a chance to take a leak. It could be a long time before you have another opportunity.

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