Saturday, September 27, 2008

Keeping it Zipped

I've been writing this post in my head for some time, trying to figure out how to spin what I have to say in a way that feels light, breezy, and suitably G-rated. But sometimes there's just no beating around the bush. So, I ask, what is it with the men in Paris that so many feel perfectly comfortable whipping it out and peeing in public? I'm not just talking about panhandlers here. This seems to be generally accepted behavior. Two examples? The well-dressed gentleman of a certain age who was taking care of business just around the corner from the George V, one of Paris's ritziest hotels, and the little boy, pants around his ankles attending to nature's call outside our neighborhood bakery, while his mother, in line inside, gave him a big thumbs up through the window. Oh la la. Oy vey. Please.

Now it's true that toilets in Paris are not always easy to access. You really can't use those in cafés unless you're a paying customer or in museums until you've passed through the ticket line. Free toilet kiosks exist but these are few and far between. But still, since the women seem to be holding it, in a backwards version of potty parity, it seems only fair that men exercise the same self restraint.


rob said...

I just spent a couple of weeks in Paris, and I witnessed the same thing. I saw a woman who was tending several little boys line them up around a tree on the sidewalk so they could, uh, water the tree. So you might say the reason that men behave this way is that women taught them to do it. Another related issue is the persistence of a few ancient pissoirs: vertical urinals screened by a short wall. I saw one on the Blvd. Arago. A cab stopped, the driver darted behind the wall for a few seconds, hopped back in his cab and was off. I think if I were a woman I might feel discriminated against since I could not use it.

Starman said...

The first few times I went to Paris, I only saw them do this at night. But since then, I've seen them at all hours of the day. I have seen a few attempts at putting in barricades to make it more difficult for the men to hide themselves (though not too many even care if they're hidden), but it hasn't made much difference.

Rob said...

I can't stop thinking about this. It seems to me that there should be a way to use a cell phone with GPS and internet connectivity to find the closest toilet. Turns out there is. Check out It doesn't use GPS so you enter your present street address and it tells you the location of the closest toilet. It relies on a database of locations submitted by users, and for Paris there are very few locations. But if people added to the database, it could be very useful.

Jay Livingston said...

I think I first heard about this back in the 70s -- Joni Mitchell, "In France They Piss on Main Street."

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