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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TP trouble

This week I had my first visit to a local health clinic.  When I took Sophia in for her ER visit, it was to a clinic run by South Africans, so I didn't count.  Since I don't speak Russian or Azerbaijani, and most people here don't speak English, one of the FSNs from the med unit came with me.  And since it's hard to give directions around here (or maybe the post doctor just took pity on me), the FSN showed up in a car with a driver to take me to the clinic.  And as my children really didn't need to come with me, I left them with my housekeeper

That's a lot of people involved for one clinic visit.

The visit was fairly straightforward - ultrasound, blood work, and urine sample (and no, I'm not pregnant, so stop being shocked at how close the babies would be).  Since I had the FSN with me to go through the various steps - check in, showing passport, paying fees, taking the receipt back to the check in, getting sheet with something on it, finding the ultrasound room, etc - it was blessedly not confusing.

At one point, I told him how grateful I was that he was there to shepherd me around.  "Oh," he replied nonplussed, "the signs are in English."  Ah, yes, but the system is not.

All went smoothly until the last step - the urine sample.  Because of course there has to be something humiliating in this story; why else would I need to tell everyone about a visit to a clinic?

I was given the cup in the phlebotomy lab.  Obviously I couldn't give the sample right there, so the FSN led me to a bathroom.  So far things had been pretty reasonable, but I admit to feeling rather helpless when I couldn't even find the bathroom by myself.  Maybe if it had been next to the lab, with a little pass-through window to avoid carrying the tell-tale yellow cup around, it would have been easy.  Maybe even intuitive.

Instead it was down the hall, past a guard, through some doors, and out in a hall next to the elevator.  Maybe that's where all bathrooms are located in buildings here.  I don't know.  I try to avoid using the bathroom in public.  Maybe if I had made a better effort to do so, however, I would have been better prepared.

After being ushered in, I went into a stall.  As stalls go, it was pretty nice.  A toilet (western-style, no squats here), a mirror, a hook for my purse, my own sink, and even a bidet hose.  Over the toilet there was a picture indicating things that shouldn't be flushed.  No feminine hygiene products, no depends, no diapers, and no... I couldn't be sure, but it looked like pants?  And over that, was the classic don't-squat-on-a-western-style-toilet picture.  I never thought I would get to see one in person.


This picture is taken from the internet because my phone has no camera.  But whenever I go outside my compound, I wish I had one with a camera.

One thing it was missing, however, was toilet paper.  I've given a lot of urine samples in my time (four pregnancies have given me lots of opportunities), but I still can't say that I'm expert at it.  And any of you women who have had the same pleasure can probably agree that sometimes it can get a little... messy.

I looked around the stall in desperation.  Paper towels?  Nope.  Kleenexes?  Definitely not.  I looked in my purse.  The only thing I had resembling TP was money - in 50 manat bills - and my payment receipt.  And seeing as I needed that receipt to be reimbursed, it wasn't worth 100 manat to have something to wipe with.  So I did what any person does when they're in a public restroom have have no TP - I went to the next stall over.  Locked.  I had seen a cleaning cart outside the bathroom; maybe there was some TP in there.  Then I thought of trying to explain to my FSN-handler that, you know, there wasn't any TP in the bathroom and of course I hadn't thought to, you know, bring my own.  I looked back in the stall in desperation, hoping I had overlooked some scrap of absorbent paper product.  I confess I even briefly eyed the trashcan, looking for less-dirty scraps, but eventually I realized that I had no choice.

The deed done, I got to retrace my route (with the FSN in the lead), past the elevators, through the doors, down the hall, by the guard, and back in the phlebotomy lab with my bright yellow cup.  I wanted something to hide the cup behind.  I wanted to run down the hall as fast as I could, drop the cup and split.  I wanted to at least make a joke to the FSN about something funny... like walking down a hall with a cup of pee.  But since I'm, you know, a strange western lady walking through a clinic in Azerbaijan and I have an image to maintain - one that said of course I'm in control and don't get flustered by carrying my pee around in a cup for everyone to see - I didn't.  Instead I walked calmly through the hall, not meeting anyone's eyes, and acting like I wasn't carrying what I was carrying and if you had a problem you could deal with it.

Someone really ought to tell the Azerbaijanis about those pass-through doors.  And of course toilet paper.


4 comments:

Sarah Flib said...

Ha ha ha. Hilarious. Way to hold your head high.

Nomads By Nature said...

Funny how when we have kids with us we always have wipes and tissues, but never when out alone. You did well improvising! I think the escort cracked me up the most in your whole adventure!

Ashlie said...

Hahaha! Sounds awkward. I've given lots of those urine samples lately (not pregnant) and I'm still no pro at it either.

PaulaJean said...

I have learned to ALWAYS carry TP. Bathrooms here are a game of chance, but at least no squatty-potties.