Toilets in Paris are invariably minuscule in my quite extensive experience of such installations, and of course Paris in no exception but it’s the city whose facilities stick most memorably in my mind.
Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t have any unreasonable expectations of toilets, and toilets are not the only memory I have of the holy city, but I think of them every time I go to Pizza Hut (which mercifully isn’t too often now that my kids have outgrown it) because a particular Hut in Paris has the most exceptional toilet in the entire history of European comfort stations.
Why I would opt for the culinary delights of the Hut when in Paris is another story altogether, involving lost ‘plane tickets, a hospital car park and a deaf dwarf, but more of that another time, let’s get back to the toilet.
When I went into this toilet in the Hut it was in total darkness, as expected, and I had to walk trustingly into the dark abyss in the hope that a motion-activated light would come on. (The motion of me walking that is.) It came on, and my surprise must have measured about 9.6 on the Richter scale when I saw what it illuminated. I had expected what I had come to expect: a squalid, smelly, minuscule affair constructed only for the slimmest of figures, but this was palatial in proportion. The room was about 3 metres square with perfectly tiled floor, walls and ceiling, squeaky clean and with nothing in it other than a solitary toilet that looked quite lost in the enormous expanse.
The normal Parisian arrangements are somewhat different. They are so small that this particular monsieur, who is by no means big, can hardly bend over to lower or raise his trousers if he closes the door, so he often finds himself having to drop them first, sit, then pull the door shut. The unventilated cubicle will also frequently double as a telephone booth, with many of the ‘phone book pages ripped out for some purpose other than checking numbers and access will be via the tightest of spiral staircases. All very picturesque, but then maybe I’ve only been to the wrong side of Paris. However Pizza Hut offered no typical Parisian facilities. No, this was a room any self-respecting cafe owner in Paris could have squeezed 8 tables into along with a small cabaret act; a truly splendid affair.
I locked the door when the light came on and prepared to luxuriate. I felt a bit vulnerable and exposed at first when I enthroned myself in the vast chamber, and as I settled myself the light went out. There wasn’t even the faintest glimmer creeping in beneath the door and it took a second or two of mild panic to figure out that the light was on a very short timer. Motion was needed to get it lit again so I started waving my arms about vigorously above my head and it worked – for another 15 seconds.
After 3 waving sessions I began to giggle at the ridiculousness of the situation of a man, me, sitting on the toilet waving his arms about and the light flashing off and on. Either the timer needed to be adjusted or there was a hidden camera concealed somewhere in the room and I was going to end up on the cruel, so cruel, French version of Candid Camera.