In Search of a Washroom

“To relieve a full bladder is one of the great human joys” Henry Miller

It was an Air France flight, a Super Constellation plane, and the first air travel of my life. I was on my way to the US for studies. We took off from Karachi. Tehran was our first stop where we disembarked for a short layover. I had never been inside airports before.

I walked around taking in the sights and sounds of the new place. It was a basic kind of building, nothing fancy or high-tech like the airports of today. This was the early 60s.

I soon felt the need to visit a washroom. The need was urgent. I looked around. All the signs were in Persian, which didn’t make my search easier.

I wandered into a large, empty hall. In the middle of the hall, there was what looked like a narrow path that led through a large opening in a wall, onto the open airfield. It was a peculiar-looking path, raised from the rest of the floor by a couple of feet, and its surface made of round wooden slats, more like rolling pins.

Since in Pakistan, where I came from, washrooms were always located away from the main house, I thought I would find one somewhere out there. So, I climbed onto the path and started walking towards the opening in the wall. I had hardly walked a few steps when the path started moving under my feet, in the opposite direction. Taken aback, I wobbled, trying to keep my balance.

A security guy spotted me doing the caper on the conveyor belt and rushed towards me, wildly gesturing and shouting — in Persian, of course. I couldn’t tell what he was saying, but I could tell from his expression and gestures that he was not being complimentary. (There were no airport security issues those days as there are now. Otherwise, results could have been pretty bad for me.)

I quickly climbed down from the conveyor belt and explained to the security guy, as best as I could, that I was looking for a washroom.

Twaleet? he shouted, his anger changing into half amusement and half bewilderment, and pointed to a nearby room where the sign on the door read, in Persian, توالیت, or toilet.

I headed to the twaleet, the security guy’s eyes following me all the way, probably wondering what I might do next.

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