Friday, May 1, 2009

French Efficiency

Today's tale of woe comes from our trip to Paris in February, 2004. Dolores and I were spending a week in a flat in the Montmartre district. Our flat was about 100 meters from the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, and we had a great time on the trip.

However, there was one glitch, and it is that glitch that I will discuss. It was a Sunday, and we had just arrived in Paris the day before. It was around 3pm, which, at that time of the year, meant that the sun was going to set soon. We were on the Left Bank, and walking along Boulevard St. Germain, which is a main thoroughfare in the Left Bank. I needed to use a restroom, as did Dolores. I figured we would just stop in a cafe, but as we were walking, we saw one of those standalone toilet kiosks on a street corner. An example is pictured nearby. I had read about these things, that they were selfcleaning and pretty slick. I figured, that'll work for us. We'd give it a shot.

Dolores went first; if I remember correctly, you put in a 50 Eurocent coin to open the door. She went in. She came back out a couple of minutes later, and said that it was kind of weird, but it worked perfectly. So I went in. I needed to urinate; I did what I needed to do, and then proceeded to the sink. There were instructions posted on the mirror, and pictures were supplied. What you were supposed to do was the following; run your hands under the faucet to get your hands wet. Then put your hands under a soap dispenser for a little drop of soap. After scrubbing your hands, you put your hands back under the faucet to rinse them. Then, you put your hands in a recess in the wall, where a dryer would dry them. A paperless system, and everything worked on laser detectors.

So, I put my hands under the faucet, and got a tablespoon of water on my hands. I tried again, and got no water. Then, I went for the soap. And got several tablespoons of soap on them. My hands were full of this pink, soapy goo, that was the consistency of cold honey, because, remember, it's Paris in February; it's 50 degrees at best outside. So, now my hands are coated in cold pink goop, and I put them under the faucet. Again, a tablespoon or two of water. This left my hands still very pink and gloppy. And, since this was an automated, "green" system, there were no paper towels. I looked for the toilet paper; it was behind a sliding door and completely inaccessible. So, let's review; my hands are cold and covered with cold, sticky soap; I can't get water on them, and I have nothing to wipe them off on.

So, with no other alternative, and ready to destroy this kiosk with my bare hands, I stalked outside. Somehow, I was able to explain my predicament to Dolores with a modicum of grace and equanimity, which did nothing for my gloppy hands. I finally had to resort to wiping them down on my socks, which caused Dolores to just about collapse in laughter. As we resumed walking towards our goal, the Eiffel Tower, everytime I would look at Dolores, she would start laughing all over again.

For the rest of the trip, everytime we saw a kiosk, she would laugh, and I would curse. Not too long ago, we were walking thru Downtown Los Angeles, and we noticed a couple of those kiosks. Dolores asked me if I'd go in one. I told her no fucking way....

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