My favorite thing that ever happened to me while traveling happened in Berlin. It’s strange, in a way, to tell it as a travel story, because it could just has well have happened in San Francisco, but it didn’t and so it’s a story about Berlin.
I was in this great pizza place near the canal in Kreutzberg, run by Italians who deal with the linguistic conflict in Berlin between German and English by running their business in Italian. But the beer they serve is German sized and after a couple of huge steins I found myself in need of the ladies room. I followed some signs and was led through a door into a heavily graffitied hallway. It was hard to pick through the chaos of the walls to understand if this was, in fact, where I was going to find the bathroom, so I poked timidly along. At the end, though, I found a door that said “herren”. The mens room! I turned around and saw that just next to the door I had come in was another door labeled “damen”. Mystery solved! I headed toward it, but just as I got there, the first door was pushed open and I had to jump to avoid being hit. I had been so engrossed in the solitude of my bathroom puzzle that another person coming in shocked me. I screamed and I looked at this man who had just accidentally scared me so badly, and he looked at me and we both started laughing. And then he went into the mens room and I went into the ladies room.
I took my time. There was a ton of graffiti in there too and I was trying to sift through all the languages, seeing what I could understand, what I could at least identify. I held my hands under the warm water for a bit longer than necessary, I remember. And when I came out, that same guy jumped out and screamed at me. I was shocked, again, and I screamed, again and then we both cracked up laughing, again! That man waited for me to come out of the bathroom so that he could scare me. He didn’t know me at all. We didn’t even speak the same language. I could have gotten angry, or just not thought that that was funny. There could have been another woman in there, some third person, and she could have come out first and gotten pounced on. It was a bold action and I love so much that he took that risk and gave me that bizarre little anecdote.