This post is dedicated to my dear friend D., who wishes to remain anonymous, and indeed to anyone in possession of a bladder, dreaming of visiting dainty France. Beware! Potty habits in this part of the world are quite different; no “restrooms” here. You will rarely want to rest, or, indeed, embark on a lengthy conversation with your girlfriends while powdering your pretty nose in France’s fetid cells.
So here are a few facts about our “petit coin” (little corner) as we call it, that put us French to shame. Not all eau de toilette is perfume here.
French public toilets are dirty. Well, not always. But if you find yourself wondering why the French ask each other about their toilet experience, understand it is not necessarily because they are not past the anal stage. The varying levels of chin-raising, frowning and matching twists of the mouth upon our return from the bog are nothing but our rating system for toilet cleanliness.So why, you may rightfully ask, are our toilets so filthy when our food is so good? A glorious answer would be that the French care much more about their tastebuds than about places that are a sad reminder of the dismal plight of their culinary efforts. The sorry truth is that for many of my fellow country(wo)men, leaving a mess behind is their way of telling the world they don’t give a damn about others.
We don’t have enough toilets: True. Go to any bar, college, concert hall, department store in America, and you are faced with a handsome, reassuring row of cubicles. A relief. Not in France. Our builders and architects are mean when it comes to adding ‘throne rooms’. It may be because we threw our Royals down the drain. Our national triangle of core values lists “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. Lavatory is not part of the equation. If you need to go, you need to hold. We like a woman who wiggles her bottom.
Our toilets are invisible. Yes. Paris automated cubicles set aside, with all their lights on green or red alerts, public Johns are never very conspicuous in our lovely country. Signs are few and far between. Usually small, too. To make the game even more of a tease, the icon for elevators is strangely similar to the toilet sign. Ah, the number of times I have run around in circles, up or down escalators -loo scarcity involves providing urinary solace on a single floor- thinking relief was at the end of the odyssey, only to find myself in a tight corner…
In France, you pay-as-you-pee: some of our toilets require a toll. This is our way to ensure the privies get cleaned. We do not, however, have ‘toilet attendants’. We have “Dame Pipi”, a position of authority for any woman who will put up with no crap from any customer. Some North American tourists have been heard complaining about having to spend their pennies, or, rather, centimes, each time they need relief. The French, on the other hand, go to university for free.