Furious screaming rent the air. It followed me out into the sunny morning: Expat trouble was upon me.
As an expat of the Trailing Spouse Tribe, I sometimes get opportunities to visit places I wouldn’t have expected to go to. Like Belgrade, Serbia, where I spent a few days once while accompanying my man on a business trip. No, I am not going to give you a tourist travelogue here about the history and geography of the place; you can find that in the guide books or on the Internet. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed eating out in the old Bohemian neighborhood of Skadulija and that Kalemegdan Fortress was interesting. What I do have for you is . . .
A tiny tale of terror
Don’t get excited; it’s not a big story. It popped into my consciousness for reasons I try not to imagine, so I thought I’d share it with you here. Maybe you have an experience with toilet ladies. There’s a tribe of them still around Europe.
I was lazing on a sunny terrace in Belgrade one morning while my man toiled away at a conference. Lady of leisure that I am, I was enjoying a cappuccino and watching the locals.
People watching is one of my favorite pastimes. Lucky me, my expat life gives me lots of opportunity to indulge. Now the locals in Serbia are not terribly exotic, or exotic at all, as you can see on this photo, but I was about to encounter a more memorable character.
The time came when . . .
I was in need of the facilities and I ventured forth inside the building to find them. Which I did: Left for men, right for ladies. Expat trouble comes in many varieties, but fortunately this foreign restroom did not present me with any challenges. On my way out I noticed a rather ferocious looking toilet lady sitting at a small table on the men’s side, but there was no one on the ladies’ side. Not processing this correctly, I simply waltzed out into the sunshine.
Only to stop dead in my tracks.
A loud barrage of furious words slammed me in the back. It was shocking! And it all sounded so un-lady-like! The language being unknown to me, I did not understand what precisely was being hurled at me. However, since the vitriol originated from the toilet lady’s oral cavity, the message was clear: I was meant to pay her for the use of the facilities.
I was tempted to move on because I am not used to being screamed at by toilet ladies, or by anyone else for that matter. But I did not. I turned around and went back inside.
My Better Self emerged from its hiding place
The woman gave me a nasty look. It occurred to me that the job of toilet lady is not the most lusted-after career in the world, status wise or financially. It did look like she could use some new shoes, so I was sure she needed the twenty cents more than I did. I was suddenly overwhelmed with guilt for having good shoes and a pocket full of change and a happy life. And I wondered in what kind of place she lived and if, when she came home, there was anyone there who loved her.
I dropped some coins in the saucer and offered her a smile to show her I was full of loving kindness and had not intended to cheat her. She glared back at me.
Well, so it goes. It’s comforting to believe in Karma in such situations. And in reincarnation. I hope in her next life she will be happy, have a rewarding career, a loving husband, and a nice cleaning lady to scrub her toilets.
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Perhaps you have a more riveting tale of being screamed at in some foreign land, or perhaps you’ve had a more gentle encounter with one of the friendlier toilet ladies of this world. Do tell!