I have no sense of smell. This doesn’t mean I am disabled — though I once listed myself as such on a job application for the “zoo” in Waterloo Park. I am differently-abled. One such different ability is to tread in places so rank, so vile, so feculent, few would dare enter. I probably even wander through places that reek without even knowing it. My only clue to whether a bathroom, outhouse, whatever smells bad are the looks and reactions of the people around me.
I’ve seen people gag, spit, cry-out, cough and swear whilst leaving a filthy restroom. But never in my life have I seen people react the way they did last month … traumatized, distant and terminally haunted by what they experienced in that forsaken restroom in that dusty little Ukrainian town.
What lies beyond this paragraph is gross. Unspeakably so. I have an obsession with both the scatalogical and the eschatological and I apologize for sharing — but as I have no sense of smell these pictures do not have the same affect/effect on me as they will you. I cannot smell flowers, baked goods and a woman’s hair but I have a certain amount of pride that I can endure… the worst toilet in Ukraine!
We were all relieved to get off the stiflingly hot inter-city bus that was taking us from Lviv to Kamyanets-Podilsky. One by one, me, my Canadian friend Peter, his new wife Miwa and my German friend Lisa all peeled our sweaty backs off of our sticky seats and hopped out into the dusty parking lot of the reststop. The bus driver said that we either had 15 minutes, or 50 minutes until the bus got back on the road (I was never great with Ukrainian numbers).
I went hunting for cigarettes, Peter, Miwa and Lisa went wandering up a hill in search of a bathroom.
15 minutes later we all reconoitered on the bus. I had no idea anything upsetting had happened as nobody said anything for maybe five minutes. Then Peter, quietly, without making eye contact or turning his head to address anyone in particular, said, “that was pretty bad wasn’t it?” Miwa just nodded in agreement, shivered, then bowed her head. Lisa mumbled something about it being the worst thing she’d ever seen.
A few silent hours later, Lisa finally brought up what had happened. The all-out assault leveled against their senses by the rest stop bathroom. After some quiet reflection she could finally bring herself to relive what she had just endured. Lisa told the tale of how her and another stanger had at first recoiled, then exchanged glances of solidarity, mutual respect and resignation before relieving themselves in the cursed toilet. Lisa didn’t provide any details. She didn’t have to. Her thousand-yard stare was enough.
I was intrigued. Honestly I have never ever seen anyone react that way to smell in my life.*** They were reacting like it was more than a smell, that they were being haunted by the souls of several thousand strangers’ evacuated meals. They’d been touched by something dark, something sinister, and I’d missed out.
Two weeks later my brother came to visit me in Ukraine. As we borded that same bus for Kamyanets Podilsky I realized that we’d be on that same stretch of road, and hopefully, at that same rest stop.
Sure enough we were, and as the bus rolled south I told Charlie that we may be stopping at the worst toilet in Ukraine. He seemed interested, but not nearly as excited as me. I can see why, it was sure to be an awful experience for him. But for me it was a chance to witness the acme of evil in smell form. It was my chance to go where few people could tolerate going. It was my chance to be the intrepid hero. Fearlessly treading where no one else could. Freely documenting a horror that others could not, nay, would not, describe.
I had my camera ready as we arrived at rest stop. Again the driver said we had either five minutes or 15 minutes to do our business. Charlie and I half jogged up the hill to where the toilet was. It didn’t look so bad from the outside really. Charlie went in first.
When he didn’t automatically shriek, groan or vomit I was a little disappointed. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Maybe it’d been cleaned in the time since Miwa and Lisa had ventured in. I followed Charlie inside. It was bad. It was worse than I had imagined. It had not been cleaned since.
My brother hadn’t immediately said anything because to do so would be to invite millions of fecal molecules into his mouth. Not just one strain of feces, but a ministrone, a menagerie of expelled potatos, discharged dumplings and exiled rotisserie chicken.
I don’t really remember what happened next. I took some pictures. Charlie got out of there pretty quick and before I knew it we were running back to the bus which was honking and pulling out of the parking lot without us (I guess the driver had said five minutes).
That night we checked into our hotel, ate dinner and grabbed some beers to enjoy in our hotel room. Apropos of nothing Charlie brought up the subject of the toilet. All he said was, “It was bad man. It was like shit, on top of shit, with like baby shit in the mix. Just so many different kinds of shit.”
Looking at the photos it’s hard to understand what we experienced in that small town. I mean it’s obvious that the place hadn’t been cleaned, maybe ever, but what’s with the splatters on the walls? And the holes themselves? They are obviously overflowing, but how deep are they???
I feel like you’d need some kind of fecal forensics expert to piece what happened back together. The Dexter of crap. Someone who could analyze splatters to recreate a crime.
So there it is. The worst toilet in Ukraine. Reststops like these exist all over the world, but this one, by far, is the worst I’ve ever seen.
*** I did rip a fart in a cab once. It was so bad the driver freaked out, rolled down the drivers side window and attempted to spit the smell out of his mouth. When that failed he squealed to a halt on Bloor St., told me that in his country he’d kill me for what I’d done. Forced me to get out of the cab, then proclaimed to everyone waiting in line at Lee’s Palace that I’d shit myself in his car.