German Conveniences
Yes, I know the title is ambiguous.  I just got an email from a friend who was once a crew member of one of my Navy ships…… different generation.  It has to do with foreign toilets…. and it gave me inspiration.   Ahhhh….. you never know when inspiration will come your way.  It does lead me to think about the subject and remember…… yes I have had experience with the subject.

I can remember back …… sometime when I was going to college.   I was talking to someone who had been to Europe.  They talked about how crude the German people were.  They would stop their cars on the Autobahn (interstate to us) and casually relieve themselves on the highway right-of-way.  We all agreed at the time that this was most uncivilized.  However, it just goes to show that appearances aren’t everything.  Let me explain.

In 1969, the Navy ship I was assigned to was supposed to go to the Mediterranean Sea for six months and the cruise was canceled at the last minute.  I got out of the Navy the end of that year.  I went back to college and while there learned of a chartered flight to Europe the next summer.  I signed up.

In June of 1970 I found myself in Germany.  A girl who had been in one of my classes had been on the flight and invited me to stay a few days with the German family she was going to spend the summer with.  The daughter of this family had been a foreign student living with her family in Florida.  I accepted. 

The German friend of hers helped me buy and old Volkswagen.  She also taught me a few sentences in German.  She said that the most important sentence was, “Wo ist der Bahnhof.”  Where is the train station.  I’m afraid I was quite puzzled.  I told her I had just bought a car.  Why in the world would I possibly need to know where a train station was?   “Ahhhh, but you don’t understand.” was her reply.   “There are no public toilets in Germany, only at the Bahnhoffs.”  I’m afraid I startled her with my laughter.  All I could think of was the conversation I had some years ago about people stopping alongside the Autobahn and relieving themselves.  I told you appearances weren’t everything. 

Sure enough, I had a personal emergency with no train station nearby.  It was in the mountains and the only place that looked like I could stop was a hotel restaurant.  That experience was short and sweet.  If I wasn’t a paying customer, I couldn’t use the toilet.  I don’t exactly remember how I resolved the situation that day, but it wasn’t at that place.  Of course I never forgot the embarrassment of being escorted out of a restaurant.

Tom Sparkman
February 26, 2003