Thursday, February 23, 2006

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.



At 4:54 AM, February 23, 2006, Blogger Samantha said...

I really think that is a disgusting habit. A few months ago, I even saw a man peeing on a church! Not to mention the number of people that pull over on the side of the freeway to pee, though I guess that's something you city people might never see.

On a side note, Fab and three of his French friends all got a ticket for peeing in the street in downtown Minneapolis! La honte! Their excuse: the bar bathroom was full and really disgusting, so they just thought they'd nip outside quick. Men! Or should that be French men?

At 5:09 AM, February 23, 2006, Blogger La Rêveuse said...

Once again, this proves it. Minneapolis Rocks.


At 1:38 PM, February 23, 2006, Blogger Chelee said...

That is no good.

Although, my son would probably think he'd died and gone to pee heaven.LOL

At 5:54 PM, February 23, 2006, Blogger MagE said...

The irony here is that they get mad us for wanting to stop "all the time" (for example - on long trips) so that we women may relieve ourselves... while we get mad at them for relieving themselves too often, anywhere.
Another sidenote/observation/personal experience... there have been many a time when on a boat in the middle of a lake, or hiking in the woods, where I have been extremely jealous of men's ability to just "go" whenever they want. Buggers.

At 11:26 PM, February 23, 2006, Anonymous Ali said...

Oh, ewe. I had no idea that was normal.

At 2:45 AM, February 24, 2006, Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Mrs B !

As a matter of interest ... one of these automatic toilets maimed and killed a young child several years ago: it was front page news for days.

All you Mommies out there ... don't let unaccompanied small children use these toilets. Il y va de la vie de votre enfant.


At 7:51 AM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Karina said...

one of my proudest moments is when i peed off the side of a kayak! no easy feat!!!
just thought i'd share that... hehe

At 8:23 AM, February 24, 2006, Anonymous Roxanne said...

Ew! That is gross. Kara said it's very common in Ireland too to have to pay. I'm glad France finally took away that rule. Now they do just have to start arresting the men who don't go to the pay toilets, like Mpls!

At 8:36 AM, February 25, 2006, Blogger Samantha said...

As a side note, at least in Vannes, the toilets were all made payantes because of two reasons: 1. the bums used to sleep in them at night and leave them a mess in the morning, and 2. there were too many people having sex in them and leaving used condoms all over the place. Yuck, huh?

At 9:34 PM, February 27, 2006, Blogger Kim/Thomas said...

hey I am sooo excited to have found your site..and this post was so funny..i have an idea, start taking pictures of the men while they are peeing....well don't make it xrated..just the back side or side view, (no sticks, sticking out, please;) and start posting them on the blog...this public urination thing, is something i cannot fathom!! hahahaha


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