Saturday, 19 November 2016

A Toilet Tale from 2000 - To spend a Pfennig

© CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

In honour of #WorldToiletDay, here's an excerpt from A Tale of Nine Cities, where my travelling companion and I got into a little altercation with a German toilet attendant...

But first a loo break. Brilliant – the toilets required a 50 pfennig piece to even get the door open and, not having expected to be waiting around in Germany, we did not have any on us. 
The attendant was not in attendance. 
Nor were any of the toilets occupied so we couldn’t even wait to nip in as someone left.  As we considered ways in which to gain access we espied the tip plate. On it were 50 pfennigs in change. Sara commandeered the money for a greater good and set out to find someone to give us a single coin in return. No luck with passers-by; then the attendant returned. Sara exchanged the change for the appropriate single coin and ducked into a cubicle. I waited outside ready to utilise the same coin when the attendant noticed her empty tip plate. 
Putting two and two together and coming up with 50 pfennigs in loose change, she started to rant. Not only was I not going to get into the cubicle without paying, Sara was a thief, we were common thieves, and much more besides. I decided that feigning a lack of understanding of the German language was by far the best way to play this and merely shrugged and repeated, ‘I don’t understand’.
Things were looking bleak for my bladder and our liberty. 
The attendant was almost apoplectic by the time Sara emerged from the cubicle. I attempted to gain entry.  Hindered by my rucksack I found myself wedged in the cubicle doorway with the attendant clinging onto me. I pushed myself forward with good force, but like a turtle whose shell is caught between a rock and a hard place, I was merely flailing limbs and extended neck. The attendant continued to hang on so, having given due consideration to my position, I relented. 
It was at that point I recalled the 10 Mark note I had in my possession (courtesy of the joys of working in Berlin from time to time) for emergencies whilst transiting through Germany. Having extricated myself from the attendant’s grip I produced the note and asked for change. Eight Marks and fifty pfennig returned, she allowed me access to a toilet. So, we repaid our debt and paid for the use of the toilet. 
We did not leave a tip.

50 pfennigs, the price of a pee in Germany, 2000

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