Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hygienic Services

Street toilette in Paris
"In first world nations, we take a lot of
things for granted: running water,
good food, and free toilets."
~ Melinda of Budget Cakes
(I swear I didn't make  her up.)

Let me try to be as delicate as I can be with this story.

We're all human, and there are times when, well, nature calls. In the US, businesses have rest rooms to accommodate the needs of customers, and most of the rest rooms are free to use.

The rest of the world is not quite the same. I mentioned a few weeks ago that most large cities in France have toilettes right out on the street (See photo above.). My understanding is that most of them are free, although there are some that are pay. I've not seen the street toilettes in Italy, but in train stations, in some bars/cafes, and in some tourist areas, I do see the stick-figure men and women — or the words Servizi Igienici — advising that there is a rest room. Like France, some are free, and others require a 'fee.'

Toilette in Avignon...It was just on the sidewalk

When we went to Assisi last Friday, we walked around for a good three-to=four hours before deciding to head back to Spoleto. Bob (who gave me permission to tell this story, by the way) decided to look for a rest room before we headed back.

"The train's not for another hour," he said, "and I don't remember if there are any on the trains. I'll look for one before we go back to the station."

"The long-haul trains have them," I answered, "but I don't know about the regionals."

We headed down the hill toward the stop where we'd catch the bus to the train station, and pointing down a long staircase was the little green sign with the stick figures. Steph noticed them first and advised, "You can go here before we have to fight our way through the crowd."

"We'll wait here," I said. "Heaven knows when Mike will be done shooting video." Mike was behind us little way shooting video of the mass of humanity swelling in the streets and piazza before us. Bob headed down the walled walkway and disappeared around the corner.

Our bathroom in Avignon
Steph and I chatted and looked at the cheap trinkets at a kiosk next to the walkway while we waited for the guys. Mike finally appeared, and he joked about shooting a video of the RR sign and panning to Bob when he resurfaced. We continued with the small talk for what seemed like a very long time.

"I wonder where Bob is," Steph said. "He never takes this long." i just shrugged my shoulders because I really didn't know what to say.

"I'll walk down and see if I can find him if he doesn't come up in another minute or so," Mike advised. "There could be a line." We allowed that since there were so many people around and so few rest rooms, maybe there was a line.

After a few minutes, Mike was just about to head down the walkway when Bob popped around the corner.

"We were getting concerned," Steph said. "Is everything all right?"

"Yeh. Yeh," Bob said. "Everything's okay. It was just an experience." My first thought was that the place was not clean, but Bob disagreed. "It was spotless, but I had to pay."

"How much?" Steph wanted to know. "A euro?"

"No, 50 cents. But I only had a one euro coin, and the guy wouldn't take it. He said he didn't have change. I even offered to let him keep the whole thing, but he wouldn't take it."

That struck me as odd. "He only takes 50 cents, but he doesn't have change for one euro?"

"Yeh," Bob said. "It was odd. I kept asking people if they had change, but no one did until finally some guy came in and gave me two 50-cent coins."

Knowing that in some rest rooms the attendants give you hand towels or paper, I was curious. "Did he give you a towel or anything when you paid him?"

"No," Bob scoffed. "As a matter of fact, he was a bit surly with me because he had to let me out of the stall."

"What?" we all exclaimed.

Soap. They have nothing to do with this story, but they're cute.

"Yeh. I shut the door behind me, and when I went to open it, it wouldn't budge. I tried knocking lightly in hopes that someone would hear me, but no one did... or they heard me and ignored me."

Ok. Call me insensitive, but at that point, I was trying not to laugh uncontrollably.

"Finally," Bob continued, "I had to pound on the door and call out. The guy came over and opened the door to let me out. He didn't look happy at all."

"Grrrr. Americani. Grrrrr." We all laughed and headed to the bus stop.

There are, by the way, rest rooms in each train car even on the short-hop trains.

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