Friday, September 4, 2009

My First Plane Ride or How I Got Over my Fear of Public Toilets
Wine Review: Paglione, Bianco DOC - Gioa del Colle, Puglia, Italy, Tenuta Viglione
My dreams of travel began in July of 1968, in Sudbury, Ontario when long-lost relatives from California had come to visit us. The encounter had been orchestrated by my aunt. My aunt Clara and her daughter, Vicky, 19, were to accompany the American cousins back to California as ambassadors for the Canadian Branch of the family.

The California cousins proved to be a friendly lot with some strange names like Jo (female), Babes, and Tony, Tony-Lee and Jessie. Those weren’t Canadian names. They weren’t much interested in our names I noticed, always calling me, “Honey”.

As my cousin Vicky neared her departure date, much psychedelic clothing was being purchased. There was much hairspray, and eye makeup being bought. I watched in awe as suddenly, almost overnight, Vicky morphed into one of the Supremes…I couldn’t help thinking how beautiful she was, and how I was sure she would be discovered in Hollywood, and if not, a movie star would be sure to want to marry her. I begged my parents to buy me a ticket to let me go with them. They relented and my aunt agreed to take me along too.

The much anticipated departure date finally arrived. Vicky had on her new hot pink, “hot pants” outfit with the black trim. I was no match for Vicky for my mother bought my clothes and I was wearing lime green shorts and a matching striped lime green and white sleeveless top. But the piece de resistance was the chain-linked purse she bought me. That made up for the lack of hot pants.

Because my ticket had been purchased after everyone else’s, I was not sitting with anyone I knew. Disappointment struck as I realized I would have to sit for 6 hours with strangers. They asked questions and I answered to be polite. The man in the brown suit had bad breath, and I began to feel sad at the thought that I wouldn’t be able to talk to Vicky for 6 hours…I was seat belted in beside the brown-suited man with the bad breath on my right, and the lady wearing the sweet perfume on my left. I’m sure my eyes belied how uncomfortable I felt. Fortunately, my kind aunt recognized my pain, and asked if I wanted to trade places with her…she wanted to sleep and it didn’t matter where she sat she said.
“Yes…oh yes…oh yes!” Now I was sitting beside Vicky…the most beautiful, radiant beauty on the plane, and surely some of that would rub off on me.

Vicky and I talked and laughed, and pointed at things out the window. When she read, I tried to read Nancy Drew, but I was too excited to concentrate. We did crosswords together, talked about which stewardess was the prettiest, and we wondered and wondered about how hot it must be in California. I must have been the luckiest 9-year old in the world. I couldn’t imagine being any happier.

The tension began after I was downing my first Coke. I realized I had to use the bathroom. I had a problem using public bathrooms as it was. They were scary, and I was a bit of a germ-a-phobe at that age. I would never use the bathrooms at school. Instead, I would make sure I went before I left for school in the morning, and I would run all the way home at break neck speed at lunch time, kick off my shoes and run straight to the bathroom, doing the pee dance all the way. Now this was something that I hadn’t thought of. I never thought about how people go to the bathroom on a plane at 20,000 feet in the air. I never thought that I would have to go. I asked Vicky, and she said she would go and try it out and tell me about it. She came back with a smile on her face and a look in her eye, and I knew I wasn’t going to like what she had to say.

Where’s the light I asked? Does it make a loud noise when you flush? Where does the pee go? The long-lost California cousin, who always referred to people as “Dude”, overheard our conversation and decided he needed to have a little bit of fun instilling fear in the 9-year old. The pee, he said, goes into a big tank, just below our feet. “And you better be careful not to stay seated on the toilet when you flush. A little thing like you could get sucked right in.” That’s all I needed to hear. I don’t need to explain to you the visual I had when he said this to me. I decided right then and there that I wasn’t going to go.
“I don’t have to go that badly”, I said to Vicky. By now, Vicky was feeling a bit sorry for me, and maybe a bit protective and she said, “It’s not that bad, Cathy…I’ll wait for you outside the door.” I couldn’t risk it. It was just too scary for me. What if the light wouldn’t come on when I closed the door? What if I did get sucked in…I can’t even swim that well. Which stroke would be best to keep my head afloat in a tank full of pee and…poop? How would they ever get me out? Had such a thing ever happened before? Yes these really were the thoughts going through my head at the time. I could hold it. I know I could. I just wouldn’t drink anymore.
“How many more hours until we get there?”
“Four hours Cathy”, Vicky replied. “Are you sure you don’t want to go?”
“No…I’m Okay.”

I was OK for the next three hours, that is, of course, until I fell asleep. My poor tired mental self tried to find a way to relieve my poor tired physical discomfort, and tricked me into dreaming that I was seated on a nice comfortable warm toilet seat.

Vicky woke me up to tell me that we would be landing soon. That’s when I realized that I no longer had to go to the bathroom, and that I was a little cold …and damp.

“Vicky”…I said. “I think I sat on a wet chair.” It was the best line I could come up with at the time.
“You didn’t” she said. “Don’t tell me you peed in that chair”.
“Oh, please, don’t tell anybody” I begged her. I’m way too old to do this I thought to myself. “They’ll think I’m like one of those kids who do this all the time or something.” Sophisticated girls with chain link purses don’t pee their pants. “Please don’t tell them!”
Vicky promised she wouldn’t, all the time laughing and repeating that she couldn’t believe what I had done. I told her that I had a raincoat in my bag, and that the first thing I would do would be to tell the others that I’m a bit cold, and I’ll put my raincoat on. That might have worked if it wasn’t for the fact that it was 99 degrees F when we landed and that dogs wanted to follow me everywhere I went.

Of course Vicky told everyone we knew, probably everyone we met there, and I have never lived this story down. It has made me get over my fear of public washrooms. The trip was 40 years ago and instilled in me the desire to see the world. I realized I would have to get over my fear of public washrooms, because I just couldn’t make it home everyday for lunch. My cousin Vickie is visiting me here in Italy from her home in Toronto. She is now 60 and I am 51. We recalled this story over a bottle of Italian wine while munching on hot, fresh taralli( I can now proudly say that I have peed in washrooms from holes in the ground to warm toasty heated toilet seats. Toilets with pull-strings, toilets with push buttons, toilets with kick flushes. I have peed in toilets from Sudbury to Shanghai, Timmins to Tokyo. I hereby declare myself public toilet phobia free.
Here's a lovely wine for you to try before summer's over. I hope you can find it where you are.
Wine: Paglione
Origin: Puglia, Italy
Bianco DOC – Gioia del Colle
Producer: Tenuta Viglione
Grapes: 50% Trebbiano, 40% Malvasia Bianco, 10% Falanghina
ABV 12%
This wine was chilled to the perfect temperature (16C)on a hot summer’s eve. It was crystalline in the glass, and dawned a straw yellow colour. It had a fairly good consistency for a new wine. The nose was an immediate scent of floral, followed by honey--I think this comes from the addition of the Malvasia. In the mouth it was nice and smooth. It was in perfect balance, I thought--nice acidity and mineral notes in contrast with the smoothness of the wine, made it the perfect accompaniment to the taralli—warm and a little spicy. For a young wine it had a fairly intense bouquet, with a little spice note. This wine had a taste of honey, or perhaps the smell was so persistent that I felt like I tasted it…because the wine was dry. The mineral taste at the end made the wine fairly persistent in length. On the rating scale from the Associazione Italiana di Sommelier, it scores an 82. We thoroughly enjoyed the wine and our evening.