Friday, October 6, 2017


Some things are ubiquitous in France: glorious food, traffic circles, toilettes. Let's start with the last. The country's infamous street facilities, useful only in the direst of emergencies, have largely given way to single-occupancy cabins connected to municipal sewer and water systems. From the outside the installations resemble toadstools, or, perhaps, gun turrets on the Maginot line. A control panel indicates four possible statuses-- "vacant", "occupied", "wash cycle", and "out of service." From the vacant status, pressing the open button retracts an elegantly curved door to reveal a stainless steel toilet bowl and two ceramic basins. For males requiring only basic service, the choice is clear. Women, or men in need of something more complicated, will require suspension. My wife described two positions; others are, no doubt, employed.

Post processing services include paper, soap,  water, and an electric hand dryer. These are unpredictably available, but voilà

The cabin employs a button marked with the industry standard <|> symbol to exit, but this is not always clear to the user. I once tried to depress a lever attached to the door, thinking that it would release the latch and set me free.

A sensor, perhaps at the threshold, closes the door and starts a minute-long wash cycle that cleans the bowl and floor and resets the "available" indicator.  Your Euros at work.