The upside of travel is embracing the unknown. The downside, never knowing when you’ll find a place to pee. I think about it. A lot. I measure every ounce of liquid I consume against the expected number of minutes between potentially useable washrooms. It’s either that, or get arrested for public nudity in a foreign country. 

Men don’t have this problem. The world is their toilet. I can’t count the number of times we’ve been less than two minutes down the road when J realized he should have used the facilities in the restaurant. It’s never a problem, until it is.

We’d been in Istanbul for a couple days. Toured the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, even the Basilica Cistern. Everything we could walk to. If we wanted to venture further, we’d need wheels. The Big Bus promised a 90-minute loop through the city – from Sultanahmet Square to the Grand Bazaar. If there’s no traffic. 

We got on board at 4:15pm and headed out across the Galata Bridge. Our first stop was Dolmabahce Palace. Built in the 19th century, it almost bankrupted the Sultan who commissioned it. It’s white on the outside, gold on the inside and home to more crystal than Walter White’s motorhome. And within its 285 rooms – there are 68 toilets. We visited none of them.

We’d picked the night bus. The last one of the day. That meant, no option to hop-on, hop-off. Just enjoy the ride. A double decker deal with an open roof, the best seats were up top in the very back row. Good view, nice breeze and few fellow tourists. 

As we pulled away from the palace, J stood up and headed for the stairs. He returned a minute later. The driver had just told him the on board facilities were closed. I looked at my phone. We’d get to our next stop at 5pm. It was a lookout. The bus would probably stop and there’d be a bathroom. 

The Bosphorus Bridge connects a city that straddles two continents, Europe and Asia. It was completed on October 30th, 1973 and is one of a trio that allow residents to move back and forth each day. When the sun goes down, it lights up, so everyone takes pictures. The bus stopped. A California stop. It was rush hour and no one was waiting to get on.

Earlier that day, in the Blue Mosque, I’d been given a plastic bag for my shoes. It reminded me of the ones you put carrots in at the grocery store. Clear. Small. And very thin.

J looked concerned. He went down the stairs again, returning with the same story. Closed. We joked about possible reasons. Projectile vomit. Explosive diarrhea. Dead body? It took his mind off it, for a few minutes at least. 

As I surveyed the skyline, J started to sweat. Things were getting urgent. He ducked below one more time to plead his case. It didn’t matter how dirty that bathroom was, he was going to get inside. Denied. The driver assured him that we were headed for the main square and there were facilities there. 

I looked at the cars below. Traffic snarled around us. Everyone headed home, oblivious to the plight of one over-hydrated man fidgeting painfully in a bus seat above them. Taksim Square was still at least twenty minutes away. I didn’t think he’d make it.

J started digging through his backpack, looking for a container. Desperation had set in. He came up empty and turned to me. I had one thing that might work. Earlier that day, in the Blue Mosque, I’d been given a plastic bag for my shoes. It reminded me of the ones you put carrots in at the grocery store. Clear. Small. And very thin.

The capacity of the human bladder is about 500ml. As we rolled along the highway, towards to the Monument of the Republic, J unzipped his pants and I lifted my feet off the floor, just in case. 

The seam held. We started laughing. The problem was partly solved. There was still the question of what to do with a bulging bag of pee? And it was leaking. As I’d carried my shoes earlier, they’d made a few tiny holes in the plastic, no more than pin pricks, and each was now spraying a stream of liquid. 

There were two choices. Empty it on the floor of the bus and hope no one notices, or drop it over the side. I’d like to say we made the decision quickly. But I can’t. As our bus crawled along city streets, J held the bag. And then it happened. Just as we were passing the British Consulate, a large truck pulled up alongside us and stopped. J didn’t hesitate. Didn’t even look down. He just let go. 

Fifteen minutes later we arrived at the Grand Bazaar. We disembarked quickly, careful not to make eye contact with our fellow travellers. We wondered if anyone downstairs had been looking out the window. Did they see the bag go by? Did they know what it was? And more importantly, did it hit anyone. There’d been pedestrians everywhere. Going about their night. Completely unaware of an impending shower. A golden one.