Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Need a bathroom break? Hold your nose."

It is much worse than that. You must cover your mouth as well! Better yet - at all possible cost - avoid having to use the public restrooms completely.

The situation has been addressed by the media in the past. As is typical here, and in other "governments" around the world, the "blame game" gets played and the buck gets passed all the way around with no resolution. Big surprise.

This article limits the restroom situation to those specifically "attached to mosques along the highways" stating that they are "anything but clean." I've been to one of those restrooms and all I can say is that I was thankful that I had platform shoes, that I was doubly thankful to have my pocketbook with me in which I always carry tissues and [antibacterial] wipes, and I was quadrupley thankful that I didn't have that foolish black garbage bag on! [More on that little adventure, further down this post.]

"A familiar view at these way stations is women and children holding up their clothing to prevent them from being soiled by the filth of these public toilets - one hand holds up the fabric that dangles a little too close to the ground while the other hand pinches the nose." For the record, I've not seen women holding up their black fabric. I have, however, seen women who allow the fabric to act as a mop wiping the floor as they walk along...
Perhaps if their faces were not completely covered in black with just a slit for their eyes, they'd be able to see what it is they are wading through. Personally, if it was my black bag and it had been soiled like that beyond disinfection I'd make sure it ended up exactly where it belongs - in the trash. Oh, wait...

"A lack of tissues, soap and even garbage bins adds to the mess. The doors to the stalls often have no locks. The bidet sprayers are often tossed down into disgusting puddles because the holders on the walls are missing." Someone explain to me, please, how "garbage bins adds to the mess." And, I think we all know why there is no tissue in restrooms for women throughout the Sandbox. I've addressed that issue, already, here and here: It is much better to prevent girls and women from allowing their hands to come into contact with their bodies than to prevent a wet, warm and dark environment to absolutely positively breed infection as opposed to using tissue for the purpose it was intended and instead use a hose with absolutely no way to "dry" those nether regions afterward.

Supposedly, "Concerns have risen not only with calls for the protection of public health but also to care about toilets linked to houses... where personal cleanliness is paramount." I call B.S. on the public health issue because if that was a concern then tissues would be provided - along with paper towels! Does anyone but me wonder, though, how it is that these toilets get to be the way that they are in the first place? I'll tell you. Complete, total, utter LACK of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. The mindset is so geared toward knowing that someone else will clean up the mess that people just don't care. In a country where every household has at least one maid - if not more - and where there are more street cleaners than policemen there is no mystery as to "how" the restrooms got that way!

An Islamic scholar, Ali Badahdah, says "the condition of these rest stops reflects on the country" and he adds "that Turkey does a better job maintaining these roadside rest stops." He has a point. I took pictures of the restrooms in Turkey [they are in my archives], and for the most part, although many had obviously aged through the years, showing obvious signs of normal wear and tear, not a single one of them was as bad as what I have encountered here in the Sandbox. Do they reflect on the country? I'm not going to make that judgment call. I judge enough on other issues. [Read between the lines.] Mr. Badahdah goes on, "...we should not be doing this for the sake of reputations but rather because this is what Islam asks us to do and this is what civilization demands." What this all has to do with Islam is not something I am even going to comment on. When it comes to religious aspects of things here - and elsewhere - I am not a scholar and do not have sufficient knowledge with which to form an opinion [that I care to share in this forum - on my blog]. Whether or not civilization demands it... When "civilization" starts taking personal responsibility for the messes it creates then this won't be an issue. But until then - and as long as a "civilization" goes forth with the attitude that someone else will clean up after it, the situation will never change.

The scholar continues, "that authorities ostensibly monitor the situations on highways... however the monitoring of roadside rest stops is not always a priority, attributing the neglect to 'the conflict of responsibility among government departments,' such as the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Ministry of Rural Affairs, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Haj." Wow. Four different ministries all charged with monitoring the rest room situation. [Sounds more and more like the federal government in the United States, if you ask me. First, by putting so many authorities in charge - none of which knows what the other is doing or who should be doing what, and second, by allowing them all to pass the buck from one to the next with out a single one of them actually taking responsibility for any of its actions.]

At least one ministry official is willing to place blame on a single party and let the proverbial buck stop there. Tawfeeq Al-Sudairi, a deputy minister of Islamic affairs - responsible for a slew of stuff which includes the "operation and maintenance of mosques on highways," says that the upkeep of these rest rooms "is the responsibility of the owners of these stations." Well, alrighty then. Know we know. I had no idea that mosques were owned by individuals. Of course, no one gets down to the nitty gritty and says how those owners are supposed to actually be responsible for the rest rooms. Cameras? Stall monitors? [There's an idea!]

When we were in Germany and I had to use the facilities I was impressed with the "automatic" cleaning apparatus that each stall was equipped with. No, not impressed. Fascinated. [I stayed to watch the whole process.] It was something I had never before seen and I just had no idea... What I wasn't prepared for, however, was that it cost a Euro [or whatever coin it was that was required to even enter the line to get to the restroom] to use the facilities. Another novel idea. Charge EACH individual for the privilege of using the facilities. Never mind. That is just one of those wild and wacky Western ideas that are so frowned upon, here. Mr.
Al-Sudairi says, "They are the ones who are benefiting from the presence of mosques at their stations and they must take care of them according to the system." Oh. Well, there you go. The owners are somehow benefiting from people using their restrooms. I fail to see the logic there, as to how someone is benefiting by allowing the general public to have a convenience that they then have to be responsible for upkeeping. Unless that owner is making a profit, how are they benefiting? Apparently, according to Mr. Al-Sudairi, "The Ministry of Rural Affairs is the one responsible for obliging the owners of these station [sic] to do their job." I can tell you what I'd do as an owner of one of these stations who was receiving little or NO benefit from having one: raze it. Problem solved.

Naturally, with Mr. Al-Sudairi placing the blame on the Ministry of Rural Affairs, it - that ministry - shoots back. Spokesman, Hamad Al-Omar, disagreeing with Mr. Al-Sudairi, says that with regard to mosques and their accompanying rest stops they "are the responsibility of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs." Getting to the bottom [ha!] of who is really responsible is going to be a never ending game, at this rate. In the meantime, if you are going to have to use a roadside restroom in the Sandbox be prepared to "hold your nose."

...true story. Several years ago when DH and I were headed to Bahrain the Causeway was backed up and we ended up having to wait and wait and wait in a cluster-phukk of cars all trying to merge in front of one another to get to the booths where your documents get stamped. I don't recall if I was drinking a Diet Coke or a bottle of water, but whatever it was, after being in the truck for far longer than had been anticipated I needed to find a "facility." There just happens to be one, right there, on the Causeway [Saudi side]. I jumped out of the truck - uncovered [we were headed to Bahrain where the black bag is not required] and quickly entered the little building that is there - which at one point might have resembled a "rest room" but now resembles something completely different. There was one little window - high up - to allow light into the building. Other than that, it was completely dark. Without even bothering to explore further that the doorway I quickly returned to our truck. DH said, "That was fast." Umm-hmm. It sure was. There was not a chance that I was going to venture ALL the way into the little building there on the roadside. Surely I was going to be able to "hold it" a while longer.

Unfortunately, the hold-up at the Customs booths continued and as we inched our way toward getting our passports entered into the system and stamped it was necessary to rethink what I was going to do in order to relieve myself of whatever liquid it was that I had consumed. DH asked the Custom's guy for me where the restroom was. "Behind you, there." No. Already checked that "there" out and made the decision to let my back teeth float... DH asked about another rest room - another "hammam" [Arabic for "bathroom"]. Custom's guy points to the big building on our left - where people go in and out to take care of passport issues. So, I jumped out of the truck as we neared the building and went to find the ladies room. Almost as big of a mistake as attempting to use the smaller restroom we'd already passed. A man - whilst giving me the evil eye for being uncovered - pointed in the direction I needed to proceed. As I started walking into the darkness of the area - all I could think of was, "This is something out of a bad movie. There are going to be men squatting here doing heroin and getting ready to pounce on me to take my pocketbook - or worse." I headed back to the truck for the second time without taking care of business.

As I was explaining to DH what the problem was with this particular rest room he said, "What do you need? Pink shag carpeting and mood lighting?" I'd be happy with ANY light! And no, of course I don't need pink shag carpeting, but safety is a concern. So, after finally passing through all of the check-points and getting onto the Bahrain side, and after again inquiring with the final Custom's man on the Bahrain, where there was a rest room, we stopped at the one that is next to the mosque. At that point, my back teeth were uncomfortable. DH pulled into the parking lot and for the third time I jumped out of the truck.

Busy, busy ladies room! All the women hustling and bustling in dressed in head-to-toe black - but for one, me. Didn't care. Had a purpose. Waited my turn in line. Standing in no less than an inch of water [please let it just have been water!] and finally got into the stall. The stall had a lock, thankfully, and I did what I always do in a public facility and used my left hand for everything that has to come into contact with a hard surface - the door, the lock, etc. The stall was filthy. Trust me when I tell you that my skin came into contact with NOTHING in there. And, the stall was soaking wet. [The entire rest room was soaking wet! Those bidet hoses are a fabulous idea. Oh, yeah, they are. Let's forget the whole "hygienic" aspect of this hose thing for a minute - and the fact that it would be so unacceptable for a woman on this side of the world to have her hand clutch some toilet paper to accomplish a small task - and concentrate on safety. Nothing says "safety" like a soaking wet TILE floor!] Did my thing - had my tissues. No. Of course there wasn't any in the ladies room stall. I left the stall and as I was leaving the rest room was digging through my pocketbook which was on my shoulder - with my right hand - to find my wipes. There was no need to stand in line at the sink or at the blow-dryers to wash my hands. And thank goodness I didn't need to. I had been holding my breath for almost the entire time I was in this ladies room because the stench was sooo bad. I could go on - yes, there were women in there who had their head-to-toe black - all staring at me - and thinking, "she didn't even wash her hands." Didn't care. Had my wipes. The whole experience was just plain ole' disgusting. And, this particular disgusting experience is the one that allows me to say that not a single woman was holding up her black fabric to keep it either dry OR sanitary!!!

Now that you have a nice "visual" of that and want to get it out of your head. Sing a song. "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go down, the medicine go down. Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. In the most delightful way."


  1. I have never been a girly-girly and here that has been a good thing. When we travel to Jordan or to Riyahd, when the "need" arises, I ask my DH to find a "private rock or sand dune". So much more sanitary than the roadside facilities.

  2. I'll comment later. Gotta go clean right now. Need bleach. Lotsa bleach.


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