If You Sprinkle
Paris has an interesting aspect that, frankly, kind of shocked me when we first moved here. I admit that even now, after 6 months, I still find it absolutely abhorrent. The fact is, men regularly urinate in the street, right in front of God and everybody.
Now you may say that this is OK, because the homeless don't always have a place to go. Fine, I agree completely, but if so, they can be discreet about it. And anyway, it's not always the homeless. I've seen well-dressed businessmen in suits and silk ties set down their expensive leather briefcases to "water the wall", just steps from the very busy Place d'Italie. In winter it is disgusting, but in summer it can make me down right nauseous.
Earlier this month, the city of Paris passed a law that made all the coin-operated street toilettes gratuit, or free to use, in order to address this problem, and in hopes that the amount they would have earned from the toilets will be returned in reduced street-cleaning costs. These toilets are small little rooms, with a toilet and a running stream of water and soap to wash your hands, and are automatically power-washed after each user. They are set up all around the city, and can be very convenient when needed.
The problem is getting people to walk the half block out of their way to use them. Yesterday morning, as I walked down the stairs to the metro platform, a man was relieving himself, right there at the bottom of the stairs.
That's it. I thought. I am tired of ignoring this.
"Les toilettes sont gratuits!" I followed this with an audible "Hmpf!" that often punctuates Parisian speech.
Everyone on the platform turned to see the situation. I walked quickly away from him, hoping he wouldn't come harrass me. I am not hard to pick out of a crowd, being one of the few tallish, über-pale, blonde women in Paris. (Many people assume I am not American--Swedish or Norwegian is usually what they guess.)
Just then, the train came. I walked purposely to a car further down, rather than the one that I knew would be right next to the stair of the station I was going to. I got on the car, and was delighted to see an empty strapontin (fold down seat). I settled in, pulled out my book, and began to read. Just as the doors were about to close, he climbed into my car. He stood a few feet away, barely able to stand upright, and the car began to fill with his odeur nauséabonde. I continued to read, hoping he was actually too drunk to start anything with me.
At the next stop, I left the car, and ducked into my original choice. It was full, of course, but I was able to wrap my arm around a pole and continue reading, standing up, until we reached my stop, nearly 20 minutes later.
A small price to pay.