Did I ever write about bathrooms? I’m trying to remember, and I don’t think I ever did. Bathrooms are a super important part of culture shock. Oh, yes. From latrines to shared toilets, to “water closets” and “chiottes”, going pee-pee in Paris is an experience in and of itself!
(Super proud of that intro, by the way. I should sell time-shares on the teevee!)
So, you go to the bathroom and you have your sink, your shower/tub, and your toilet. And a little bathroom mat because, hey! What’s a bathroom without a little mat?
Anyway! American bathrooms are incredibly convenient. It’s a one-stop destination you (mostly) walk out of feeling great.
In France, however, bathrooms are another thing. If you ever have the good fortune of having to pee in Paris, get ready! There are many options.
First, there are self-cleaning toilets in the street. Yep. They look like pods that spring up from the concrete along the sidewalks. You pay a small fee and you have 20 minutes to take care of business. Easy-peacy. I saw similar public toilets in Brussels, but that’s another story onto its own….preferably a drinking story.
And then, there are those shared bathrooms. I saw more dick in Paris in a year than I care to admit. I mean, you just end up greeting them as you walk into the little toilet room designated for females (yes, room. No stalls! It’s a pretty big deal for a girl!). The first time I went into a shared bathroom in Paris was in 2009, while I was spending a week there with my cousin. I walked into the bathroom and saw men. MEN! Inside the bathroom! A shy bladder all my life, I bolted back to my table. I decided then that would be the day I would prefer my bladder burst rather than share a bathroom with men. Fast forward three years and I found myself making small talk with others, walking past the urinals like it was no big deal and laughing at my visitors who found the idea totally scandalous.
Then, there’s the time you’re told you’re a princess because you have a toilet (and shower and sink, but mostly toilet) inside your appartment. See, Paris is home to many, many old buildings. These buildings predate the concept of what we know as bathroom or restroom, so you will sometimes encounter appartments with a shared toilet in the hallway (uh-huh!). Or, if you’re lucky, it’s a state-of-the-art, hole in the ground. Shared by the tenants of maybe 5 or 6 appartments.
By the way, do you know how hard it is to pop a squat and aim when you’ve been drinking?
Also, older appartments have all sorts of odd distributions like, say, a little lone toilet room. You’re going to have to wash your hands in another room. The concept of peeing before or after a shower is a complicated one to navigate here (which, is sometimes not so bad because have you ever had to sit down on the toilet after taking a shower? Yeah- horrible feeling.)
But my most terrifying bathroom experience took place about a week ago, while back in Paris. I was meeting my boyfriend’s family for the first time. We were about to have dinner at his grandmother’s appartment and I was politely guided to the bathroom, after inquiring where I might find it (I mean, can you imagine any other reason why?). After fumbling with the latch, I managed to close the door. I turned around and found myself in a very large room- a huge room by French standards, actually- and studied it. There was a large tub to my left, a long countertop with a sink at the end. There were little cute knick-knacks everywhere. I took a step towards the sink, surely the toilet had to be to the right, behind the closeted wall. Nope. No toilet.
Where the fuck am I?
I turned around, heart racing. I was still in the awkward post-rencontre stage of the meeting, trying not to make an ass out of myself. Those fucking cute knick-knacks seemed to suddenly mock me. To top it all off, I’m one of those super paranoid people who know time is running once you enter a bathroom. I could not take too long- lest they think I’m doing whatever. Like being utterly lost.
After a few eternal seconds, I lost my shit (haha pun) and was about to walk out, defeated but determined to put on my best after-pee face. As I reached back the door and its annoying little lock, something caught my eye to the left.
Inside the closet on the left, something beamed like a beacon of hope.
I opened the hinged door, à la Christina Ricci on Casper, and searched for the light switch. On came the light and I stepped up inside the little closet. Relief flooded through my body until I remembered, I have a shy bladder.
At any rate, have you guys ever heard of bidets?