You are in a pub, a bar or even sometimes in a restaurant. The beer or wine is flowing and you give into the inevitable.
“The breaking of the seal” or toilet time to most people.
A particular curiosity of Budapest’s many establishments are the permanent fixtures guarding the toilets.
These often overweight, haggard looking women, wrinkled and arguing vigorously down a phone are posted behind all-too-small tables which have on them a note of the price for the pleasure of using the bathrooms.
Next to this are toilet rolls with a sheet or two given out after payment. The prices range depending on the establishment, 250ft to 100ft is usual although I’ve seen it as low as 30ft – a reflection of that particular dive I found myself in one night.
They are seemingly in endless conversations on their mobile. The chatter never ends apart from when the abuse is hurled towards unsuspecting patrons who don’t know the drill. I wonder if there is actually anyone listening on the other side? Maybe they are on one big group call, planning their next verbal assault.
As an idealistic carefree student of this city two years ago I had no prior warning or experience of these institutions of Budapest. My first experiences were embarrassingly scary. Not knowing what to do with the obscenities screamed in my direction I would throw the required money into the direction of the collection plate to tame the beast and scuttle off like a scared mouse.
As time went on, I began to notice they prioritised tourists, with locals merely skipping past them. With some IPA inspired courage I took the same plunge. Strolling past them to the usual chorus of beautifully crafted Hungarian vulgarities, I managed it. Hopping in the other direction, with a quick, quite crappily pronounced “sorry” in Hungarian I made my way back in the beer drinking, flashing lights of the night.
It was a milestone. A rite of passage for any Budapest resident of any shape or shade.
Now, sitting behind these tables guarding the toilets all night with the revelry of the night all around you, must be wearisome. This must be the reason that manners are nearly always bypassed by the army of women working the toilets.
Before you go this must be said.
These pitifully low sums asked for, are in fact the only wage these toilet folk get or so I have been told. Which makes this conscious ridden reveller always pay them unless the verbal assault was too aggressive which can happen from time to time.