It happened on a trip to Florence, at none other than the Uffizi Gallery. The very same Uffizi that guidebooks recommend you pre-book because of how crowded it gets. Scores of people flock to it daily to get an eyeful of the Botticelli’s and Michelangelo’s. The same scores of people that I had to manoeuvre my way through with dark, blue patches down the back of my jeans... unmistakable patches... Pee stains.
After a delightful morning exploring the gallery and marvelling at ‘La Primavera’ and ‘Venus’ you can imagine the horror that gripped me when, after waiting ten minutes in the long line for the ladies nigh bursting and finally reaching the toilet, I realised it was sans seat cover with the added bonus of no loo roll. I employed the ‘squat’ technique - tried and tested by countless women over the years, but to my horror my steady stream quickly went wayward and in a Niagara Falls tour-de-force, surged down my thigh and onto the back of my jeans at calf level, accumulating in a huge puddle beneath my feet. It happened so fast that there was no chance of pulling a short stop. I scrounged for a tissue but the clean up job required much more than a Kleenex. I sat frozen on the bowl realising the enormity of what had just happened and exactly how low things were going to get.
Next to the bowl was a wastepaper basket filled with used paper. I delved into it and took the biggest piece I could find and began mopping up the puddle beneath me. It was clearly no time to be precious. All the while I was conscious of three things. Firstly, the 15 women lining up with increasing impatience to get into my cubicle of shame; secondly, the fact that I would have to turn my back to them (behold the pee-patch!) to wash my hands as gruelling seconds passed while I was ogled from the door-frame viewing gallery like I was some hideous, bearded fat lady from the Dark Ages and thirdly, the stark, yellow knowledge that they would know what I had done. The full glory hitting when, whoever went in after me saw the patch on the floor, put two and two together and came up with pee.
I shook myself... up, slapped my face as I went into another bout of hysteria, and channelling Tony Robbins growled, ‘Get.It.Done. Head down, get the job done and get out!’ And off I went. Seven steps later I was rounding out of the toilets toward the stairwell that would carry me away from all this when I almost trampled a group of students perched on either side of me, talking and lolling about. I stopped dead in my tracks looking like a shocked mime before making an about-turn and running away from their bewildered faces. I had to get out before the loo ladies could see me! There was however, no escape. The other route led to the cafeteria. Damn it! I wedged into a chair pretending to plan my next site visit but I was really looking for exit doors on a map of the gallery. An elderly couple, who’d been watching my trajectory from loo to stairs to seat, eyed me with that, ‘kids these days’ expression. There was no other option than those stairs. I took a deep breath and bolted past the entrance to the Ladies, down the stairwell, through the archway of pimple-faced emo kids toward the exit.
I ran out of the Uffizi without a backward glance and found a sunny spot near Ponte Vecchio, resting my back against a wall waiting until I was ‘in the clear’ and hoping I didn’t smell like pee. All I can say is thank God for jeans. Any other material would have housed that stain for hours but with 15 minutes of drying time, the ordeal was ‘finito’.