Saudi Arabia Travel Log: Squatty Potties


“The only bad thing about road trips,” S declared from the backseat of the car, “is the squatty potties.”

After shouting out an amen, I turned to Abu Halen to muse on how remarkable it was that S had nothing bad to say about the incessant heat, the greasy food, the dull scenery, or the mothball-stinking hotel rooms. I do believe that S is becoming an optimist!

Pyramid perchers.
You can’t blame the child for dreading urination on road trips. We had just taken a late lunch, and the girls had done all they could to delay a bathroom trip. When it became apparent that delay was no longer feasible, I asked the waiter where we could find a bathroom. Gesturing apologetically at his sweltering cafe, he said there was no place for women here, but I could find a bathroom in the mosque.

The mosque was a long, hot walk from the restaurant. At the back was a sign that indicated the women’s entrance. Here we found the bathrooms. Although I took it as a good sign that a woman was just finishing cleaning the stalls when we arrived, my girls thought otherwise. Suddenly the two older ones insisted that they miraculously had no need to pee. Although she couldn’t actually articulate as much, T was doubtlessly saying a silent prayer of gratitude for her diaper.

Peeing in a hole is a daunting task for girls. That is, it’s daunting for girls who have spent a charmed life on a pedestal toilet. For them, a squatty potty is little more than a crapshoot. Their protests were to be expected.

Not in the mood for resistance, however, I snarled, “We are not leaving this bathroom until you have both peed!” G, predictably, was the first to bend to my will. The two of us squeezed into a stall, and after several awkward minutes of verbal coaching, threatening, and maneuvering, she ultimately succeeded in peeing in the hole without peeing on herself. But although I used the same strategy for S, holding her hands as she leaned back over the hole, her pants ended up soaked.

I was just about to put on my “well, life sometimes sucks” expression and hustle S out of the stall when her face crumbled in shame. Compassion got the best of me and I agreed to get her a change of clothes. Wet pants could be gotten away with when she was five, but at age ten the game was different. So I left my youngest three kids in the care of a cat sleeping in the doorway with her sickly kittens.

Striding across the parking lot, I struggled to keep my abaya from unsnapping at my knees. It whipped at
my ankles angrily, and sweat trickled between my shoulder blades. Avoiding the gazes of men who were no doubt wondering where my guardian was, I pressed on to the car.

Climbing inelegantly into the back of the Suburban and not caring much about displaying my bum to bystanders, I rifled through the luggage until I located S’s bag. Predictably, it was at the very bottom of the trunk. But it contained what I was looking for: a blessed change of clothes.

I would not have gone through all that trouble for anyone I didn’t love. But I also wouldn’t have wanted to be S at that moment, waiting patiently in a strange, hot, smelly bathroom in wet pants. The fact that she waited patiently is one of the reasons I love her. And when I handed her the dry change of clothes, she knew that I love her.

Half an hour later, we reemerged into the cafe where Abu Halen was (still) chatting up the waiter. After gulping down a bottle of water, I announced, “You have to do all of the hard stuff for the rest of the day, honey. I am on vacation now.”

Vacations got a lot easier for us girls as soon as I spotted (and snapped up) one of these babies at our local grocery store. Except, ours doesn't have a bag underneath it. Sand is a much better receptacle. :)