CHAPTER 9.9 – Toilet Troubles

An American tale on Italian toilets and other such oddities.

Or in other words; How an American looked stupid for a month while trying desperately to assimilate in a new culture.

1.Got stuck in a public restroom because I could not figure out how to open the door. Meanwhile people were outside the door waiting to come in. They could hear my lack of progress behind the door.

2. Could not figure out how to use the huge key (that looks like it is meant for a palace door) in order to unlock the front door of an apartment. Had to call for help.

3. Had to get a tutorial on what the second toilet was for (I have never seen a bidet like that). Learned quickly never to dry my hands on the small towels that hang near it.

4. Fully soaped up my hands in a public restroom and then realized there were no knobs or buttons, and the water did not turn on when you waved your hands under the faucet. Spent 5 minutes looking for how to turn it on and finally found the step lever under the sink. Great idea for not touching anything with your hands…once you know that it is there.

5. For the first couple of weeks I pronounced grazie (thank you) with an ah sound instead of eh on the end. This meant I was saying grace to people; going around and blessing everyone as if I were the pope.

6. Moving on to the showers. Stood fully undressed in a shower for 10 minutes trying to figure out how to turn the water on. Pulling knobs, pushing them, twisting them. Finally figured it out but finding the hot water is another story.

7. Flooded the bathroom of my friend’s grandmother when I took a shower. The tub had a pull out screen. I pulled it fully out so that it sat straight. Apparently it should be in a zig zag. If it is not, the water hits the straight screen and runs directly to the bathroom floor. Did not realize until after the shower when I stepped into an inch of water on the floor which was running into the hall. I used a towel to sop it up and ring it out in the sink. Embarrassed to tell them, but I did, and they were gracious. Thank God for Italian hospitality.

8. Another shower did not have any screen, curtain, or door. This was after the recent flooding catastrophe so I carefully aimed for the shower wall and had the most anxious shower of my life. Apparently I was supposed to use it while sitting in the tub.

9. I have now started the process of turning water on myself for five seconds and then turning it off. Soaping up, then rinsing quickly. Shower PTSD is a real thing.

10. Many bathroom lights are motion sensitive in public restrooms. And they are on a timer. Sometimes the motion detectors are in the bathroom itself and not in the stall. This means that very likely the lights turn off on you if you take too long in the stall. So you must try to stick your hand out of the stall to wave it around to try to get the light back on.

11. Italian footwear is extremely important. I have never been so aware of my feet. If you want the equivalent of a flashing neon light that says “AMERICANA HERE” simply wear sandals in public.

Day by day, learning the way. Never make the same mistake twice; and other such cliches.

Written By

New Yorker, photographer, blogger, and life time dreamer.