West Meets East

Ummm. . . Awkward!

"Um. . . excuse me mam." (I hear my voice saying in Chinese). . . you see we were driving along and we had an emergency bathroom need. . . my son had to use the bathroom and we stopped but there isn't any toilet paper. . .and I'm wondering if you have any we could borrow. . . well. . . I mean not borrow . . . you know. . . have."

Her raspy but friendly voice replies, "You want to borrow toilet paper?"
"Well, no. . . I mean my son had to use the bathroom, it was kind of sudden and I ran him in here so he didn't go in his pants but there is no toilet paper. Do you have any toilet paper that we could use?" (awkward pause) "I mean not to borrow. . . you know we don't have any. . . and I'm sure you wouldn't want it back. . . (awkward look exchanged between us)
She yells into the men's bathroom something in another language (a dialect that is not Mandarin) something and then proceeds to walk into the men's bathroom. . . talking to someone (I'm hoping someone she knows). She stops a man dressed in a guard uniform - who is zipping up his pants on his way out of the bathroom and asks him in Mandarin if this foreigner can borrow some toilet paper. Does he have any?
His reply, " She wants to "borrow" toilet paper? No I don't have any." (I can't blame him.)
It becomes apparent that she does not know him. (more awkwardness - between them and for me).

My 4 year old son at this point understands what is going on in my conversation with this woman and her extended conversation with this guard.
I repeat, again in Chinese, that I don't want to borrow it but you know, he had to poop really suddenly and I barely got him into the bathroom in time. . .so I didn't grab any tissue before running in and there is no toilet paper in any of the bathroom stalls (or in the big roll at the front of the bathroom - where it is normally kept here). . . and we just need a little bit of toilet paper is there any chance you could "GIVE" me some toilet paper. . . can I "BUY" some.
Shoot! Why didn't I think of that word "GIVE and BUY" before.
Now, it is clear to both of them my need or my sons need I should say and just as it seems to register that I do not want to borrow toilet paper ( as in with the intent of giving it back to them) but I would like to BUY some toilet paper, my 4 year old (who has never been embarrassed in his life) uses the little bit of Chinese that he has to come out of the bathroom (naked from the waste down) and says in Chinese, "please. . . give me some?". Suddenly, everyone (including an additional man who has emerged from the bathroom) is scrambling to find some toilet paper for the poor, naked, foreign 4 year old who is using Chinese to communicate his need for some tp. We finally (and very gratefully and apologetically) get some toilet paper and get everything done as quickly as we can so that we can get back out to the car and head home! But my embarrassment is not quite done. All 3 of these adults are waiting for us outside the public bathroom to tell my little guy how smart he is and all of these other compliments. I was embarrassed initially, partly for myself, then for the poor guard caught off duty with out being zipped up yet, and then for my half naked 4 year old and then in this very strange moment outside the public bathroom, I felt so very thankful that I live in China. So very grateful for the friendliness and kindness of Chinese people that I don't even know. SO very thankful for all of them and for the culture and country that they represented. I know it sounds strange to have this kind of moment and in this kind of way, how a request for toilet paper or an emergency " poop" stop could lead to this but a "moment" is a "moment" and I had one. Apparently my son did too. . . the next words out of his mouth were, "That was NOT my favorite bathroom." and at that point I couldn't stop giggling.

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