I know to check these days. If we’re taking a bus journey that’s longer than a couple of hours there has to be a toilet on board. It doesn’t always remove the problem. After all, even if the bus is equipped with a loo, it may well be broken or locked. But I have to try.
It’s been a source of discomfort and occasional agony for me since my teenage years. As a student I would often take the bus between Nottingham and Bradford. It was very rare back in the 1980s for buses to come with a loo on board. I remember one journey where, by the time I’d reached Sheffield I was crossing my legs and whistling to keep myself distracted, such was the desperate urge to go. As someone who hates making a fuss I didn’t want to disturb the driver and ask for him to make the other passengers wait while I found the station toilets. By the time I had endured another 40 minutes to Leeds however, tears were streaming down my cheeks and I asked him to wait while I ran into the station building. “Ok” he said, “but why don’t you use the one at the back of the bus?” I could have screamed! I’d suffered for nothing. The memory still haunts me over 20 years on.
It’s always the way now that I check if there’s a toilet on the bus when I board. If there isn’t one I can guarantee I’ll be asking the driver to stop before any other passenger does so. Yet if I see the reassuring sight of a lavatory on the bus, in my relaxed state I can survive a long journey without the need to go. It really is all in the mind. I even avoid coffee on the morning of travel but it doesn’t prevent me from entering this tortured world of my own making.
Sometimes even the peace of mind of finding a toilet on the bus can be misplaced. On a five hour journey through Patagonia, I was happy to see the bus had a loo and relaxed for a couple of hours, enjoying the bleak landscapes. When I finally decided to go, I was distressed to find that the door wouldn’t open. I pushed and pulled, and it wouldn’t move. In my best Spanish I asked the driver for the key to the toilet and he looked at me as if I was an idiot. “It’s open” he shouted. Finally another burly passenger went to back and rammed the door with his shoulder, and the problem was solved. As if I should have worked that out by myself…
If there’s any country where needing a pee is never an issue it has to be India. On our second day in the country, our driver was heading along the highway on the way to Agra when I asked him to make a stop when it was next convenient. He immediately pulled up at the side of the road. When I asked him where I should go, he looked at me in despair and said “Sir, this is India. You can go wherever you like.”