The third assault came at the bus station. It was 3:05 in the morning and a small crowd of half-asleep travelers milled around (with the exception of a small group of girls with large backpacks, who were chatting loudly and giggling – but we’ll get back to them later). I sat on the hard metal bench (it was the kind with pointy ridges on it to stop homeless people from sleeping there) clutching my backpack and trying to doze off.
And then there was the noise.
It was an alarm. The kind of alarm that is supposed to sound like a police siren so it can scare off an intruder, but which everyone recognizes as nothing more than an alarm. It was loud, and it was incessant, and it was coming from somewhere nearby.
Glancing around, I could see that I was not the only one who was bothered by this. Still, no one seemed to be doing anything about it. Fair enough, I suppose; it was the middle of the night and none of us worked there.
The alarm continued for several minutes. Finally, I saw a man heading towards the sound. Did he work there? Would he turn it off?
He was heading for the public toilet. He opened the door to the toilet, and the sound dramatically increased in volume.
The alarm was coming from the toilet.
It was now 3:15 in the morning, and my sleep-deprived brain was trying to reconcile the existence of an alarm in a public toilet. What had it been attached to? What could someone possibly be trying to steal?
And then came the smell.
Anyone who has, out of intense desperation, found themselves waiting in line to use a temporary outdoor toilet on the last day of a week-long music festival will be familiar with the smell. It, too, appeared to be coming from the toilet – logically enough.
In my half-asleep mind’s eye, I saw the whole scene play out. It made perfect sense. The thief had entered the public restroom with the intent of stealing one of their valuable toilets. They went in prepared with a sledgehammer so they could get it out of there quickly. But they weren’t skilled enough with the tool, and instead of removing the toilet, they managed to smash it into a thousand pieces. The standard anti-toilet-theft device sounded the alarm, and the thief, now covered in a fine spray of countless other people’s excrement, fled the scene through the window.
It was the only possible explanation.
At last, the bus pulled up, and I groggily showed my ticket and passport and got on board.