On one of my first days in Medellin, I went to the botanical garden. It was wonderfully beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Upon entering the gardens, there was a lady selling various fruit juices. They were already prepared and had huge chunks of ice inside as I’ve seen in other places – like drinking horchata in Honduras.
I got some guanabana juice and for the first time there were chunks of guanabana inside. Nice! But considering that it was 9am I think I was one of the first customers. About half an hour later, I noticed my stomach wasn’t terribly happy, but it wasn’t upset either. As time went on, there was less and less happiness in my gastrointestinal tract.
I ended up in the middle of nowhere exactly when I needed to… explode. I decided to summon all my strength to hold back the floodgates so I could get to a shopping complex near the Industriales metro station. There were confirmed clean bathrooms there as I’d used the bathroom there the day before. They also had a Mexican restaurant. If my stomach was upset, nachos and beans would be a great easy food to eat and digest since I was hungry. And there was internet so I could work and relax.
As you can expect in this situation, I got close to where I needed to be and then made a bit of a wrong turn. I ended up on a highway walking on train tracks and had to run for my life to cross the street. But in the end I made it to the shopping center.
Let’s just say I felt like a new man when all was said and done.
I don’t typically ask what others do in public bathrooms, but I tend to mummify toilet seats. I know my laptop’s keyboard is probably dirtier than the toilet seat, but mentally I need that separation between my body and the toilet. And with all the toilet paper it’s as if I end up floating (I’m exaggerating, obviously!)
I finished in the bathroom, had my dinner, enjoyed my nachos, and caught up on Happy Nomad Tour administrative things.
I left the shopping center, walked around a bit, and then headed back to my temporary home here in Medellin. This involved a 20-minute metro ride and then a 20-minute bus ride.
Everything was uneventful until the bus ride. I got on the bus and sat down in the back. Soon thereafter the person next to the window had to get off. So the easiest thing to do was to relocate to the empty row in front of me to the right.
I opened my backpack and drank some water from my water bottle. When my backpack was open, it was obvious that I had napkins in there since they were at the top of one compartment.
When the row to my left became empty, I relocated there since my landmark to know when to get off the bus is on the left side of the bus. While sitting there, the lady behind me tapped me on the shoulder. She spoke with a low volume and fast, so I had a hard time understanding her. All I understood was something about “papel higienico” or toilet paper.
She repeated herself. I didn’t understand much more the second time around. I then thought maybe she saw my napkins in my bag and wanted to borrow some toilet paper. The day before I saw a lady pee next to the side of the road and maybe this lady had an emergency and was about to do the same.
When she stood up to leave, waiting for the bus to stop, she told me her message once last time. As she told me, I offered her the napkins I had taken out of my bag when I saw her get up. I kindly offered her them and instead she seemed to get angry and disgusted.
I got to my home in Medellin and talked to the family a bit. I then went to the bathroom. I’m not ashamed to admit that in comfortable locations it’s a pleasure to do #1 sitting down – especially after a long day of walking around in the sun.
Oh the horror!
I pulled down my pants and it all became so clear. As I pulled down my pants, a piece of the mummy fell out the back! Yes, a strip of toilet paper from my mummification of the toilet seat a few hours earlier had somehow gotten wedged between my back and my pants and ended up being like a tucked-in cape – or a tail.
And then I felt horrible.
The nicest lady in Medellin, after thousands of people saw me walking around with toilet paper hanging out of my pants, informed me about it. And my way of repaying her, from her perspective, was to offer her the toilet paper that had been stuck in my pants on her way off the bus!
Well, this kind of thing can happen to anyone. The nice thing was that I felt zero embarrassment about the whole thing. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, and if anything I found the whole thing funny.
That said, I’ll pay more attention now. I think it happened because the shirt I was wearing, the wonderful gift from the students I spoke to in El Salvador, is longer than a normal shirt. So it must have fallen down as I got up and lifted the toilet paper up under my shirt and then into my pants as I pulled them up.
Yet another crazy experience on The Happy Nomad Tour…
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About Adam Pervez
In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.