Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Russian Vignette

I was recently encouraged to write a little more, since this is a slow time for my horse racing inspiration I thought I'd do the odd story of life, anecdote of human incompetence and dramatic retelling of mundane events. As the muse descends of course . The burgeoning demand for my meagre literary prowess demonstrates one fundamental fact of life. There is no accounting for taste.

As there have been few truly inspiring recent events I'll pull one from the archives, this particular tale still stands as the most harrowing experience of my life.

The adventure began as we set off to St. Petersberg on the overnight train. The ride was quite comfortable and I was looking forward to spending the day touring one of the worlds most beautiful and stories cities. In nearly every respect St. Petersberg lived up to it's billing. The eye could hardly take in the grandeur of the scenery. Even the train station we pulled into would put many mansions to shame.

As you all know I have always have a dreadful aversion to all things off colour. Whether it be the public washrooms at Dickson Hill school, the ramshackle outhouse affectionately known as the "Lloyd" or my father's own particular brand of humour. Such things have always haunted my sense of decency. Little did I know that amidst the splendor of that fair city I would be subjected to the most repellent of all circumstances I've had to endure.

The overnight train did not have a privy on board that I was aware of. To be truthful I never looked, I wouldn't have availed myself of it anyway. But after a long night the inevitability's of nature take hold and relief must be sought. I was a little irked from the outset that this train station didn't have free washrooms. Profiting from this circumstance seems morally questionable at best. 10 rubles bought you a place in line and 3 meagre sheets of transparent toilet paper. They only let in a set amount of people at a time it seemed. I shuddered as I wondered what one did if 3 sheets didn't complete the task. The march back to the counter for reinforcements would have been most unpleasant, not to mention having to line up again.

As I rounded the corner into the washroom I surveyed the scene. On one side there were several large stalls on the other was obviously what passed for a urinal in St. Petersberg. We would have likely identified it as an eaves trough bolted to a wall. That was fine though, it's not as if I ever plan on using a urinal. I entered the first roomy stall and was taken aback. The stall was completely empty! There was no fixture of any kind. I assumed the whole place was under construction, that would explain the concrete floors and walls and maybe even why they had to charge money to use it. No matter, I'd simply wait my turn to use the neighboring stall.

A chap eventually emerged looking well relieved with a newspaper underarm, it was a promising sign. However I skipped into his stall to find that it looked exactly like the last stall I observed. I poked my head back into the first stall and this time noted two features of the cubicle that had escaped my initial inspection. It had a floor that was slightly slanted towards the centre and a hole the size of a twonie (Canadian Two Dollar Coin) in the middle. I'm not sure if it's possible to convey the horror I felt at that very moment. Thankfully the human body is wired in such a way that the sudden onset of fear either accelerates bodily functions or stops the process entirely. It is to the latter group that my body belongs, God be praised. Had I spoken Russian I may have tried to warn those standing in line that this particular commode hardly offered value for money. Instead I beat a hasty retreat and steeled myself for a day of discomfort.

As it turns out a proper restroom was eventually found and the city of St Petersburg as well as the Winter Palace did their best to blot out the day's unfortunate prelude.

But still........I have always wondered what use the fella in front of me got out of that newspaper. It haunts me to this day.

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