I’m lazy. So while Alice was tip tap typing away for hours on end at night, I was usually bullshitting on my phone or thinking about whether I should go running or not. However, there is one extreme experience that stands out to me worth sharing from my personal point of view, one that Alice was not present for to ascertain for her blog, unfortunate for myself and fortunate for her. I’m coarse, and have an eight-year-old sense of humor, so it’s easier to put thought to pen on something as ridiculous, asinine, humiliating, vexing, and finally comical as my literally getting stuck in a shitter in Paris on a crowded street, next to a crowded beach.
We’ve seen many a sanitation facility in our travels, Alice and I, and typically have been none too pleased. Germany, to begin with, spoiled us, and the rest of the trip was spent battling with lack of toilet paper, and on most occasions, lack of a toilet seat. What the fuck? Seriously, no seat? Imagine squatting over an American public toilet, seat lifted, after you know it’s already been soiled time and time again. So, after four countries with extremely poor poopers (Austria excluded, thank god), France could have been construed as a godsend. Cannes, France. It was beautiful, luxurious, and full of hot, sandy beaches. I could hardly contain my excitement. I did my best to maintain my cool, considering my unfortunate let down in Italy: I had not been attracted to a single female in the entire country. France! France, on the other hand, was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Sexy, classy, and did I mention nude? It was truly an exotic and sexually expressive country. Sinful. At this point, I’m feeling pretty good about myself, and I’d like to keep my A-Game present, just in case. In the nature of fair play, I feel I must point out, much to my dismay and Alice’s delight, that the average male in France is equally as tan, taught, and beautiful as the average female. I could throw up every time a ripped, model-looking guy, who seemed as though he’d never had to work out or try a day in his life, strolled by. Such ease and grace this whole country displays. It’s as if their entire foundation is based on principles of aesthetics.
Along these sandy white beaches of Gods and Goddesses are a very unique French take on the port-a-potty. Rather than a plastic encasing, providing a smelly cup, with an endless pit of other persons’ fecal matter; the French have decided that for a mere 50 cent euro, a private, spacious, self-maintaining, self-sanitizing, fully stocked bathroom facility can be yours. I like this. Who wouldn’t? We hit the beach, lay out the towels, set up camp, and I inform Alice as coolly, and in so many words, that I’m about to go take a shit. I pop my Oakley’s on and start my long strut down the main highway overlooking the beach. Cars and scooters are whipping by. Many a good looking man I ignore. Many a cheerful and astonishingly gorgeous French woman I pass with delight and a reinvigorated sense of vanity. My coolness knows no bounds.
I approach my private space, i.e. the pooper. It is across the street from the main highway overlooking miles of beach. There are thousands of people walking, driving, and scooting by. I pull out my trusty euro dollars and pop one in. The door slides with futuristic purpose, built on an automatic motor. I’m entering the potty of the Starship Enterprise. I dip my head in reverence, smirk, and bask in my glory. Once inside, the door slides shut behind me. I am private, and secure. The toilet is not yet to be seen, but once the door reaches its closing place, it presents itself from behind the wall, again, automatic, self-contained, self-controlled. Nothing can stop this well-oiled machine. I am in heaven. No, I am in France. I drop trou, and sit, relieving myself.
Then, within all my privacy and security, instinct sets in. I’m American Gaddamnit. We turn around and lock the door where I come from. It’s only commonsense. I wouldn’t want anyone walking in on such a sacred moment. There must be a lock somewhere. What if someone were to insert their own 50 cent offering to the oasis of eternal happiness? I turn to a number of buttons against the wall lying just slightly out of reach. Green, Red, White, and some other French color. Corresponding to the colors are, as you may have guessed, French words, so common, yet so alien to me in my tiny little spaceship wonderland. Not wanting to waste too much time and energy, and sort of figuring, What the hell’s the worst that could happen, I conclude that green must be the locking mechanism. Red, certainly, must mean STOP, which is the last thing I want to do. I push it with delight as I embark on my fantasy stool. I will never be disturbed again. I hear a loud click. My body, purely reactive, ceases to move. A loud French woman begins speaking overhead in words I don’t understand. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that she is not a good sign. A few sentences later, my toilet begins to flush, and not quite finished, this leaves an infuriating mark on my soul. In pure defiance, I sit still. I will take my time. I will receive the allotted 20 minutes that was promised me for my measly 50 cents. I begin to feel a spray… Refreshing, cleansing, yet not meant for me. The toilet is cleaning itself. I begin to move, yet still fighting the urge to get up and retreat. As the toilet finishes its cleansing, I feel it start to pull away from me, rotating behind the wall from whence it came. I’m sure that my weight won’t allow this to happen. Then suddenly, the worst thing ever: the door begins to slide open. No longer majestic, or illuminating. This door just opened to the real world of onlooking cars and people eagerly waiting their turn in line for the Sanitarium Ensanctimonius (that’s what I call it). I have become fully exposed, literally caught with my pants down.
At first I try to force the door closed, which is impossible, of course. It has unlimited strength. My only other option is to hide in the expansive corner–after all, I haven’t yet wiped. As the next person in line starts to make their way in, I man-gina myself enough for cover and attempt to convey in so many words that I’m not fucking finished. I start pressing buttons, and the door begins to close, thank god. However, once the door has finished its slow move to the lock position, I am no longer greeted with the sight of a toilet, but the rush of cold, soapy water around my ankles, shoes, and shorts. Next to come is a misty shower, from all angles, as if being spray-tanned with bathroom sanitizer. Once the nightmare has finally come to an end, I praise Allah and hope to god I can sit down on the toilet and finish my business. Alas, the machine is smarter than I. Knowing someone is still in the receptacle, the door opens, once again. This time, I am greeted with the disapproving look of a lovely French family. The ten-year-old girl and her father just stare on audaciously, while the mother, not wanting to expose her daughter to anymore of this exhibitionistic behavior, from clearly an idiot or a vagrant, begins lecturing me in French on how the machine is operated. I carefully, with clenched cheeks and a bruised ego, pull my wet soapy shorts back up over my waist and step outside. The door closes again. The woman finally realizes that I am American, and begins to repeat her step-by-step instructions in broken English as the toilet once again cleans itself. Two minutes later, once coins are available to be dispensed again, I sheepishly dig into my pockets for another 50 cent piece. As much as I’d love to allow this nice lady and her daughter to go ahead of me, there are more important issues to attend to, and they will once again be forced to wait.
As I stroll back in and watched the door close, increasing numbers of glaring onlookers just shake the magic right out of this pooper of the future. I no longer wanted to revel in its greatness. I longed for simpler times. A stall, a lock, a seat cover, and chaffy tissue paper were all I needed. No mistakes were to be made this time around, although the dread of the death machine washing me out all over again never subsided until the very end. I finished up, washed my hands and once more, pressed he deceptive green button. I was free.