Culture Shock 9: American Man Refuses to Operate Bathroom Turnstile in Germany

european bathroom pay turnstile
“Your only job is to hinder my relief.” — Photo by Tony Fischer Photography (

I would like to begin this post by saying bathroom turnstiles are bullshit. Installing a coin-operated barrier between a urinal and a dozen full bladders is just asking for trouble.

So back on December 8th of 2012, The Wife and I went to Oldenburg in northern Germany to visit her friend. We shall call this friend Killjoy McBittertits. Killjoy wasn’t in a particularly festive mood that night, but she did manage to show us around the Oldenburg Christmas market. We strolled around, checked out the booths and drank copious amounts of Glühwein and Feuerzangenbowle. (I also had a flask of whiskey in my jacket pocket, and I was in no way shy about using it to spike the sweet holy Jesus out of our drinks.)

For reasons I still do not understand, Killjoy McBittertits wanted to leave the Christmas market and go inside a shopping mall. (Apparently this mall is a pretty big deal in Oldenburg because it has three floors. I know, right? Three whole floors… that’s insane.) Anyway, after wandering around for what seemed like forever, we stopped at a bento place and ate expensive noodles. Now, I was pretty drunk by this point — I’d say I was operating at a steady Level 7 on a scale of 1-to-Ted Kennedy — and I had to piss.

I excused myself from the table and walk/ran to the nearest escalator. It took me much longer than it rightfully should have, but I finally saw a sign for the restroom. My bladder was about to rupture, so I was basically sprinting toward the men’s room when I was stopped by a coin-operated turnstile. And guess who had no Euro coins in his pocket whatsoever? This guy.*

I stopped and considered my options for a moment: There was a family of four immediately to my left. An elderly woman to my right. Two teenage girls behind me and a dude who looked exactly like one of those pasty fruitcakes from Chariots of Fire across from of me. There was one security camera pointed at me and one security guard pacing around inside the men’s room. Obviously the camera was powerless to stop me, and the guard kept walking in a circular loop, causing him to pass behind a wall and lose his line of sight on the turnstile. I thought to myself, This is all about timing. It’s just a video game. Wait for the rope swing, grab it and jump over the lava pit. You can do this. You have to do this, because if you don’t, you’re going to make puddles in your pants.

funny man running to bathroom
He’s running because he has to drop a deuce. — Photo by John Wright (

I took two strides forward and planted my foot on the joint of the turnstile, right where the rotating bars met the metal wall, and tried to James Bond my way over the top. (I vividly recall one of the teenage girls gasping in surprise.) This operation should have gone smoothly. It should have been glorious. Instead, my giant snow boot crashed into the bar like a piston — like it was angry at it — and all of the bars started to rotate away from me. My leg straightened out and slid over the top bar — bunching up my jeans mid-calf and exposing the white sock underneath — and brought my genitals right up against the metal.

Abort! Abort! cried my entire body. Abort mission; we were given false intel. This is a suicide mission. I retracted my leg and, in a flash of brilliance, decided to duck under the bar instead. I slid beneath the turnstile, nodded to the oblivious security guard and stepped up to the nearest urinal. Half of my brain was thinking, God damn you James Bond, while the other half was thinking, That would have been hilarious if I’d hit my head on the way under.

*In retrospect, I suppose I could have asked one of the innocent German bystanders for change.

Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”

If you liked this post, please follow our blog by entering your email address in the upper right corner of this page. You’ll receive future posts directly in your inbox! No spam, ever! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

27 thoughts

  1. OMG…after our first trip to Ireland and not having any coins for a coin operated port-o-potty, I am NEVER without lots of WC coinage. Luckily in that first experience there were two very nice ladies right there and they paid for my entrance into the port-o-potty and then we had a nice discussion about where we were from and the older of the two ladies says, “oh, my grandfather “built” the church in Oakland.” Really? Like we have one church in Oakland…thought that was pretty funny, but I was eternally grateful for her generosity. Then we went on to experience the WC “guards”…geeze…they are merciless!!!


  2. Hllo, and thanks for popping by to read “chez moi”. I identify with this post so much; I yell at them and threaten them with a puddle on the floor, explaining that a combined weight of nearly eleven kg of babies has shot my pelvic floor to pieces so on their head be it…. it usually works!


  3. hahah! Great to know. How very inconvenient. As a “rural” girl going to school in the “big city” of Burlington, Vermont, I’m even thrown off and miffed when I go to actual cities and have to ask for a key to the bathroom at a place I’m eating at; I swear I won’t shoot up! Was the women’s line still longer?


  4. Ein Mann kam nur knapp bis zur Tür,
    Da hieß es, “10 Pfennig Gebühr!”
    Er fand keinen Groschen,
    Sein Stern war Erlöschen…
    Verzeih’s ihm… er kann nichts dafür!


      1. Nee, just the first German limerick I ever had the pleasure of encountering. It is, as you know, a typically English poetry style – I found this one somewhere before the advent of Google, so it stuck in my mind. Now there are all sorts of examples, but limericks remain largely an Anglophenomenon.


  5. Good work, bionic man. As to why the entrance around “Mister Wash” or some other similarly named German pissitoire smells like, well, a pissitoire, is because of the 50 cent price of admission.

    It used to work like this. At the entrance of a public toilet, there was a table with a small dish. you left change to tip the cleaner. No-one ever took the change.


  6. Oh my god ‘Killjoy McBittertits’. You have a singular talent for nicknames that make me snortlaugh my drink out my nose.

    And I cannot fathom why someone would be so evil as to put a turnstile there. It seems rather a spiteful move really!


  7. Hahahahaha this was such a hilarious story to read. I live in Germany and always have change with me but once I flew from NJ to Oslo,Norway and as soon as we landed I suddenly had to pee so bad. So when I found a bathroom it also had the pay to pee turnstile you can almost here it whisper “you shall not pass!” So I saw a soldier with this huge backpack on and I grabbed onto his back pack, kind of ducked under this tall dudes bag and went through. Meanwhile a group of older ladies were just watching the whole thing unfold. Lucky for me the guy didn’t fart while I was ducked under his backpack.


  8. Funny post! On a serious note I don’t think that we should be charged for performing a necessary bodily function! One of the advantages to being disabled (I am blind) is that in the UK disabled people can use specially designed accessible toilets free of charge provided they have a key provided by an organisation called RADAR enabling them to do so. Great, only problem I usually forget to put the huge key (and I mean huge) in my pocket when I leave home!


    1. Hi Drew, and thank you for the comment! I had no idea there were special keys for the disabled to use special bathrooms. I should think they could make them with magnetic strips so they could be swiped like credit cards. Maybe someday soon.

      Now I have to ask… how did you manage to read this post? Are you mostly blind, or using an audio program? Just curious!

      Have a great day!


      1. I use Jaws, no not the shark but screen reading software which converts text into speech and braille enabling blind computer users to access their computer’s screen. It is manufactured by an American company called Freedom Scientific. I can see outlines of objects but can not pick out detail so, if a friend walked past me in the street I wouldn’t know it was them unless they spoke to me. Your idea about magnetic strips is a great one! Cheers, Kevin


What do you think? We welcome your feedback!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.