Let’s talk dirty…

France, I need to tell you something.  Lean a little closer, so you can hear me.  I’m not going to shout this and embarrass you the way the sales lady did in the Carrefour store yesterday when my credit card didn’t go through.  But I’ll get to that in a minute.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but there’s a problem that’s got to be taken care of.  It’s gotten out of hand.  Ready?  Ok, I’m sorry but you have to do something about your bathroom situation.  Did you hear that?  This toilette (toilet) thing has GOT TO GO!  Even the name, for god’s sake!  You have people in stores, restaurants, out and about ask “Ou sont les TOILETTES?”  (Where is the toilet?)  Now that doesn’t sound very nice does it?  In America we cover up that word.  It brings disgusting images to mind.  We say something like, “Can you tell me if you happen to have a restroom, please?”  See… we don’t say toilet… that even brings ugly smells to mind!  Yuck!  We pretend that we just need to take a little rest.  Maybe we do actually sit on the commode to rest, and hey something may or may not happen.., but that’s not the point of the question.  We just hint around at all of that with a “can you tell me” even if you would happen to have a room that one could rest in?  Get it?  You are so refined in all other aspects of life.  You’ve got to get a grip on this whole bathroom thing.  And I haven’t even gotten to the real problem yet. 

My god!!!  Clean those freaking things up!  I have never seen such dirty,

Ladies Room in train station

Ladies Room in train station

filthy places in all my life!  What the hell is the matter with you?  Didn’t your mother teach you better than this?  Your bathrooms are downright DIRTY.  Disgustingly dirty.  And I know this is going to really hurt your feelings, but you can smell them from a mile away!   Yes!  That’s right!  I don’t even have to ASK where the stinkin’ TOILETTES are… I just follow my nose! 

Maybe it’s not your fault.  Maybe it has something to do with the mechanics of your toilets compared to our “American Standard” style.  See… we even American logocall the company “American Standard”.  Now, I’m a respectful tourist and I would never try to flaunt our way around as being better than your way in anything… except, and it’s even a brand name… American Standardour American standard for a toilet.  We’ve got it right and you don’t.  I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.  We have a lever on the SIDE of the toilet that flushes the thing.  Not a button on the top that you need to push down into a cylinder with your finger and HOLD for god’s sake.  How in the world can a lady lift her foot up to flush THAT?  Maybe that has something to do with those pointy-toed shoes that France invented.  But it’s impossible.  I’ve tried and it can’t be done.  See, we’re used to being able to do the whole routine in our bathroom stalls WITHOUT TOUCHING ANYTHING!   It’s quite a trick, but we practice it from the time we’re small.  We hear our Moms in public bathrooms, authoritatively telling the kids “Don’t touch anything!”  It’s a feat, done with mostly our feet that our Moms teach us from the time we can barely even talk.  When all other conversation to us is in baby talk, in public bathrooms our Moms bellow “Don’t Touch Anything!” so we know it’s very important.  And we watch and learn how to do it. 

So when we have been trained a certain way, what in the world are we supposed to do with a BUTTON on top of the back of the toilet that has to be pushed with a finger or a crazy rope  hanging from the ceiling that we have to pull in order to flush a toilet?  Not to hurt your feelings… but… crazy!  And flush buttonI’m a smart person… but I can’t even figure out the button thing!   It’s two halves of a circle and one or both can be depressed into the shallow cylinder.  I can put my finger covering both sections and push and all hell breaks loose.  WATCH OUT!  SHE’S GONNA BLOW!  Water gushes in and swirls like the white water rapids and flushes with such gumption it jumps out of the toilet.  I know as soon as I do that ‘push’ to STAND BACK, or I’ll get sprayed.  I’m not kidding and I’m not exaggerating one bit.  Or I can push the right side of the circle into the cylinder and nothing happens.  Well, it pretends to flush and water churns around but nothing leaves the toilet.  It’s a faux flush.  Nothing accomplished.  So why is the right side of the button there anyway?  Why not just go for it and do the big flush each and every time?  It’s the same with every toilet I’ve encountered in France (except the ones with those goofy ropes you pull from the ceiling, but they’re not even worth addressing). 

What the hell is this about??? The choice is yours!

What the hell is this about??? The choice is yours!

I think it’s because of the French way of thinking.  It’s a known fact that French scientists approach things differently than American scientists.  The French come up with an idea, we’ll call it a theory for lack of a better word.  And they analyze, think about it, hold it up to the light and turn it around, analyze some more and generally just beat the damn thing to death before they even get started on DOING anything.  But once it’s built, that thing WORKS!  Perfectly as intended.  The Americans on the other hand, come up with an idea, and hey… they slap it together lickity-split and if it works it works, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t but at least then they’ve made progress!   And Americans are all about progress!  And if it doesn’t work quite right which it may not, they can go back and do it again and again and again till they get it right.  You ever hear the word “recall”?  As in a product, a toy, an appliance, a CAR?  That’s because someone slapped it together a little too hastily just to get it up and running and to generally just GET ‘ER DONE!  Hey, we may have had five or six recalls by the time the French are finally ready to put pen to paper.

So I KNOW that the toilet button was well thought out and perhaps even a little over-analyzed and it’s supposed to work.  And it does perform the exact same way every time, but somehow the functionality got lost in the mechanics of it all.  And I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it’s just a STUPID idea someone had.  Yes, it works just like it was intended to, but man, is it DUMB!!!

Wheel on Carrefour shopping cart

Wheel on Carrefour shopping cart

You guys did the same thing with the wheels on your shopping carts.  A wheel’s a wheel, for god’s sake!  It was invented a long time ago, and haven’t you ever heard the phrase… you can’t re-invent the wheel???  Then WHY did you try!  The shopping carts at Carrefour which is the largest Target-style store I have ever seen in my life have wheels that can go any which way!   The carts can turn on a dime… backwards, sideways, to the right at a 45 degree angle, to the left … boomp, butta, boomp, butta boomp… like they’re dancing… every which way but FORWARDS!  Yep that’s right, try to go straight and it Antibes 9.24 021can’t be done!  I fought with my basket for an hour in that store, trying to get it to go straight ahead.  I finally had to walk in front and pull the damn thing instead of push the handle from behind the way every basket in America operates.  Another thing that was over-analyzed too much.  Take a look at these wheels- they’re amazing and whoever came up with this idea deserves a prize.  But it’s just too complicated- it’s overkill like the choice of two buttons on the toilet for one flush and in the end it just doesn’t compare to the American way.

And I don’t want to beat a dead horse to death, even though it smells like one, but who’s fucking idea was it to build a toilet with that deep, skinny bowl and just a smidgen of water in the bottom?  Don’t you realize that that

Water level in French toilets.  This is the one in my flat.

Water level in French toilets. This is the one in my flat.

big pond of water we Americans have in our American Standard-way-of-bathroom toilets is there for a purpose?  That ‘plunk’ sound means whatever deposit was made now has its odor contained.  Covered up.  There is not enough water in your toilets to do an efficient cover-up.  Some things are meant to slide into oblivion.  Not hang around on the sidelines for repeat appearances.  I personally keep a toilet brush AND a bottle of Clorox right next to the toilet in my flat.  The toilet brush gets used practically every day!  It has to.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.    

Finally, and I know France that I’m really loading on you and you’ve had just about all that you can take, but this is important.  GET SOME SEATS FOR YOUR TOILETS!  If you ever want to have as nice as toilets as we have, you have to make it a place to rest (i.e. restrooms?).  Either someone has forgotten to put the seats on to begin with, or they’ve all been stolen.  I know, in America we have some crazy people Antibes 9.25 Italy 008that steel hubcaps and then decorate their front yard, even the trunks of trees and their porches with them.  Is it the same here?  Do you have people that have the front of their flats covered with toilet seats?  If not, I don’t know where they’re hiding them.  But you’ve got to get some toilet seats and get them installed.  I mean, it’s just ridiculous.  MOST public toilets, and even those in the nice hotel public bathrooms don’t have seats.   What’s a woman supposed to do?  I know, we never use them unless… you know.  Usually we just squat OVER them, because as you know we NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING not even with our butts, but it’s nice to know they’re there… just in case. 

Alright, I know I’ve ragged enough about the bathroom situation and I’m sorry if I’ve hurt your feelings, because I love your country, but someone had to tell it to you straight.  And I’m not going to discuss the lady’s brash behavior in the Carrefour store, because I’ve said enough things that are hard to hear… other than that it doesn’t matter that I stood in two- not one but two- ridiculously long Wal-mart style Christmas lines to pay for my things only to be told after my purchases were rung that these were Credit Card Only lines.  A sign that important should be written in French AND English no matter what part of the world it’s in and then people stacked 15 deep wouldn’t have to wait for everything to go through the tedious process of having to have each item canceled from the register.  So in a last ditch effort to try and keep everyone happy I pulled out my credit card.  I knew it wouldn’t work- I knew I had taken all my money out for this trip, but thought maybe somehow there would be a miracle and funds would suddenly appear and my card would be approved!  But no, there was no miracle on 34th Street, or Route D-35 or wherever I was.  I saw the saleslady give that blank, surprised stare into the message window on the credit card box.  I knew what was coming.  Shouldn’t she have just leaned forward and whispered that there was a slight problem?  We could both see the impatience and irritation in the faces of everyone in line.  And just to make sure they all knew the delay had absolutely nothing to do with her competence level, she felt it necessary to broadcast in a ridiculously, loud voice,  “CE N’EST PAS MARCHE” (It doesn’t work).  Ok, ok, there are other ways to call for manager assistance.  I didn’t have the opportunity to yell “I HAVE FRENCH MONEY IN MY PURSE, AND I CAN PAY”, did I?  No.  Antibes 9.12 007Luckily, the same manager who cleared my purchases from the first “credit card only” line came over to this line and as the saleslady was babbling away about my terrible autrocities, made  a very, very special exception and allowed me to give her actual money which she took to the manager’s office to make change. 

Enough said… Ok, France, now let’s just go back to being friends.

  • Antonia says:

    Yup, That’s why I love America so much! Going to the bathroom in American malls was like going to a museum for me: nice paintings, nice smell, marble sinks… *sigh* I miss that.
    Anyway, love your blog, so funny to see an American point of view. 🙂

  • CK says:


    Just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying reading your adventures in Antibes and the French Riviera! Me and my mates will be visiting Nice this May, but unlike you, we’ll only be there for 5 days! Reading your blog, however, has made me wished that we had more time to spare!

    Anyway, I just like to clarify the button thing for you. These toilets were ‘designed’ to be ‘environmentally friendly’. The bigger half, which you claimed was a faux flush, is actually meant to flush just the pee. If you did your big business, then you either press the smaller half, or the entire button.

    I don’t think this is a French invention though, perhaps it’s Japanese. You see it everywhere in Asia now (I’m from Malaysia!)

    So, where will you be off next?

    • I’m sure the invention was meant to work well! Thanks for the nice comments. I actually put my posts here and the background information that got me there into a book called

      Woman Imploded… emerging from the rubble on the French Mediterranean

      I am actively looking for a publisher now. Have a great time on your trip! As for your question, I’d like to go to Dubai now.