When the “shared bathroom” is shared with yourself  

The bedroom side of our apartment

The bedroom side of our apartment

Our apartment was on the second floor (third floor in American nomenclature), a sharply angled and narrow creaking wooden stairway leading up to it. At the landing, the manager opened both doors of the opposing rooms and bid us enter.

Architecture worthy of a chamber pot

Architecture worthy of a chamber pot

   On the one side was the sleeping area. A set of bunk beds greeted us, followed by a double bed at the back of the room. It's width more or less matched that of the room, making getting in and out of it on one side (read: my side) a slender proposition. With my many nocturnal visits to the bathroom compared to Carol's (perhaps one), it would make sense for her to take the side snug against the wall. But since the sides of the bed to be occupied had been set by agreements as binding as the Treaties of Paris, Ghent, Versailles and the Council of Nicea combined, it was my side that would be fixed by the wall. In a gesture of magnanimity, a narrow channel was created between the wall and the bed that permitted a glass of water and one bare foot to be placed there at a time.

   We crossed the open landing to the other rooms of the apartment that contained the kitchen, dining area, living room and bathroom, along with a pull out sofa bed. In all we could sleep six in the apartment, but to go to the bathroom would require a trip across the open night for four of them.

   The room with the proper bed lacked a sink, so my original thought of employing the Coffee Mug That Dare Not Speak Its Name would not work. It was Carol’s idea, after watching me train to get up on my side of the bed without slamming my head against the wall or tripping over my own feet, that I convert the bathroom trash can into a makeshift chamber pot. (I have to admit the solution did match the decor and period of the half-timbered building.)

   With the evening restroom break requirements more or less settled, we took off to view the great cathedral of Strasbourg, a brooding and imposing Gothic edifice that for several hundred years was the tallest in all of Europe.

   When I was leaving for Europe back in 1971 after graduating college, my grandfather had slipped me a $20 bill, saying he wished it could be more. He added, “And go see the cathedral in Strasbourg.”

shared bathroom 1.JPG

   The room with the proper bed lacked a sink, so my original thought of employing the Coffee Mug That Dare Not Speak Its Name would not work. It was Carol’s idea, after watching me train to get up on my side of the bed without slamming my head against the wall or tripping over my own feet, that I convert the bathroom trash can into a makeshift chamber pot. (I have to admit the solution did match the decor and period of the half-timbered building.)

   With the evening restroom break requirements more or less settled, we took off to view the great cathedral of Strasbourg, a brooding and imposing Gothic edifice that for several hundred years was the tallest in all of Europe.

   When I was leaving for Europe back in 1971 after graduating college, my grandfather had slipped me a $20 bill, saying he wished it could be more. He added, “And go see the cathedral in Strasbourg.”

My grandmother's burial mask

My grandmother's burial mask

   I had no idea, with all the architecture of Europe that was much better known, why he chose this cathedral. A deeply religious man, perhaps its reputation as the tallest suggested it would be a great and sacred place to escape my grandmother. Certainly, his apologies in not being able to give me more than that twenty was due to my grandmother's stranglehold on the mayonnaise jar containing tightly rolled hundred dollar bills, protected by the guns of Navarone.

   I stood before the cathedral, enthralled by the staggering workmanship and artistry of the soaring facade, as a wave of warm memories of my grandfather crashed against the rocky shoals of the memories of my grandmother.

   This was a woman of German ancestry, who when returning from a visit to her bayou home of Des Allemands, would inform us all of the latest news, including who was dead, who was dying and who'd be better off dead. In all the years of growing up with them, I never knew my grandfather to have done anything right, according to my grandmother. As I gazed at the cathedral now, I wondered if that 20 bucks my grandfather had given had been a fee to scout out for him whether the church was a good place for sanctuary, or its tower a good place from where to jump.

   On a lighter note, I'm happy to report that Carol's chamber pot idea worked out beautifully, and none of my nocturnal ramblings disturbed her sleep in the least.