I probably walked for like 4 or 5 hours in Paris. Yes, we were in town to mercilessly rock a sex dungeon, but first and foremost we were eager tourists, and that involves struggling through 7th grade French, walking until your feet have blisters, and holding your pee.
Around 6pm, after ducking into a French McDonald’s to use the free wi-fi and wake up my Google Maps App, I REALLY had to go. I figured, if I’m already just poaching the wi-fi here I may as well use the Mickey D’s bathroom too — but it was a coin-operated deal and I didn’t have a 20 cent Euro coin, so I just left.
I probably walked another mile or two before it began to feel like an emergency. I had peeked into a couple of the more bustling bars and cafes to see if I could sneak in and use a toilet, maybe without some French employee rolling their eyes at me for being an American with a bladder. But nothing was just right. Now I had to GO. And then I saw it. In the distance. The free public toilet.
I have a hostile relationship with port-o-potties and it is well documented. If you have a few hours free, I encourage you to read about:
The time the plumbing went down at a John Mayer show in New Mexico.
The time in Montana that I discovered the virgin port-o-potty.
The time at Vegoose when a stagehand attacked me inside a port-o-potty.
The time, on the way to Ryan Miller’s wedding, when someone tried to topple my port-o-potty with me inside.
The time I read two chapters of Lonesome Dove in a double-sized Blue port-o-potty.
The time the port-o-potty industry never recovered from me calling them out on their vanity mirrors.
The time Joe Pisapia coined the term “soft serve Jenga” and everything changed.
So needless to say, I was apprehensive about the Paris Public Toilet, but it was still a holy grail. An oasis in my time of need. Un salvateur.
The guy walking down the street in front of me, literally two paces ahead of me, walked into the public toilet first. Terrible luck. Of course he was in there for an eternity doing things that are between him and his God. But when he emerged, minutes later, I ran right in. Big mistake.
I would later learn that one needs to let the door close, and then re-open, before using the public toilet. The Paris public toilets are “self-sanitizing” or “auto-cleaning” or whatever else you want to call it. But I didn’t know this. Let’s get back to our story.
It smells like death in this particular horrible box. I immediately put my nose in my shirt so I can smell my own chest blended with death, and not pure death. I am “peeing like a race horse” as they say. I am halfway through and going STRONG when I heard a buzzing noise, like a motor. And I swear to God I don’t make this stuff up — I simply could not make this stuff up — the entire toilet folded itself up into the wall. The whole bowl retracted itself into the wall. The bowl folded up, dumping pee out of itself, disappeared into the wall, and some sort of spraying noise began. Then the lights went out.
I feel some sort of spray hitting me, and I am reaching for the button that opens the door, but I realize I haven’t completely cut off my stream yet. It’s hard to do at that point in the game.
I zip up after peeing a bit on the floor where a toilet used to be, and walk out into the Paris night. There is a French man standing there, waiting to use the toilet. I nod at him, as if I am a regular human being, and not a traumatized American who just urinated all over the floor of a bathroom, and carry on down the road.
I have done research on what happened to me that day. Check out this woman’s tragic YouTube story:
Did you make it to the part about the girl who died in the Paris Public Toilet? That would have been me if I’d had a #2 in the works. Promise you. One day I will fall in The Hole in a port-o-potty and die, and that will be the end of Guster, and someone at my funeral will say “He died doing what he loved” and people will nod their heads, except a few of you, a few of you will say “Wait…. did he die doing what he loved?”
P.S. Internet advice that would have been helpful:
Pay attention if you never used this automatic toilets! Don’t enter the toilet immediately after another person, as after each use the door is closing and a washing cycle of up to one minute begins. So wait for the wash to finish then push the button to open the door for you.
My teenage son thought he could save a few coins by ducking in whilst someone was exiting. No doubt he had forgotten my warnings of earlier and was promptly sanitised — the toilet received no payment so thought it was empty and retracted the toilet bowl into the wall (with him still on it), then sprayed him with sterilizer.