Friday, October 21, 2011

Pay, Spray, Bidet

So, if there isn't nature around, nor a McDonald's, what is a person supposed to do when nature calls?  It's a real problem in Paris, where there are very few public bathrooms. You can buy something cheap at a cafe and use the restroom there. Or, you can hope you come across one of the public, automatically self-cleaning bathroom kiosks, officially called  "sanisettes" but mostly just referred to as "toilettes". 


When Anthony and I were here in the spring for our fact-finding trip, he saw somebody come out of one, and assumed it was his turn to go in. The next thing I know, there's this frantic yelping and pounding on the inside buttons. It turns out he'd entered just in time for the rinse cycle, and he came running out, "Aach! I've been hosed!" Naturally, sympathetic wife that I am, I can no longer even see one of these kiosks without giggling, but today we finally figure out how to use one of these -- properly, that is: 

There are four lights. The one on the right indicates when it's "Out of Service" so it's primarily the left three that we're concerned with. When somebody is in there, the middle yellow light illuminates. When they come out, do not make the mistake of going right in. The next cycle is the blue-light "Wash Cycle". Wait till that light goes off and the left-most green light comes on, indicating it's both vacant and ready. 

Don't hold your breath looking for one (you may want to hold your breath while you're in it though.  Recently self-cleaned, but not exactly the Ritz...). They are generally free, although many of the public restrooms do charge something. As a general rule, public bathrooms are not only less plentiful but much, much more disgusting than those in the States. Bring your own hand-gel; soap dispensers are optional.

Of course, if you do go the Ritz, you may get a bidet. That's what everybody expects, and while this may have been the norm ages ago, I can't say I've been in any house that actually has a bidet in the bathroom. In fact, of the 40 or so apartments I saw in May and September combined, I only saw one that had a bidet. When we were in Croatia, on the other hand, our Soviet-era hotel had a bidet, and both Pippa and Gigi drenched their outfits experimenting with it.  Not actually a good cleaning tool, but certainly an excellent source of entertainment. 

And so, in conclusion (horrible upcoming pun warning; avert your eyes if you must):
Bathrooms here are a real crapshoot. 

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