One of life’s enduring questions: “Where’s the bathroom?”

If I were queen of the world, I’d have free, clean bathrooms on every corner. Because that’s what a spacious world would be like. And because those of us with bladders that won’t hold a TSA-sized bottle’s worth of urine take lots of detours — and miss lots of life looking for bathrooms.

Okay, admit it.  How many $3 lattes have you bought just because you needed a bathroom and didn’t want to be accused of using Starbucks’ bathroom without buying anything? So surely you’ll agree that this is a blog-worthy topic for a blog that purports to inspire a vision of a world where we all feel more free and live with more possibility. Read on and imagine the bliss of never hunting for or bemoaning the state of a toilet again. You’ll thank me.

One of the things I find most refreshing about European cities is their approach to this problem — quite unlike the good old U.S. of A. They admit — as a culture — that, well, people need to go to the bathroom from time to time. The French, for example, have made provision for this most basic of human needs quite well as I learned on my last trip there.

In America we 1) go buy something to qualify as a “customer” because the sign says, “Restrooms for Customers Only,” 2) Wend our way through a department store to find the customer restroom (when we weren’t actually a customer until we needed the customer restroom) and then realize we must find a manager with a key, or 3) Find a nasty gas station that was last cleaned in 1932 by a blind person, or 4) HOLD IT (and drive fast).

In Paris, there are ubiquitous kiosks that are not only free but are self-cleaning between customers.  In fact, the door won’t close and reopen until the required “lavage” cycle has completed.  So 1) free, 2) clean. Hmmm… something’s right about this. Can you imagine the joy of living with that approach?

Or there are attended stations where tips are optional (and far less money than the cost of a latte is expected) and at which sponges and mops are regularly employed.

Or worst case scenario… one pays for the bathroom in advance, which seems quite reasonable, considering that the motivation to pay goes from “total” to “nonexistent” when moving from “in advance” to “relieved.”

One of my themes in life (cause it’s straight from the good old B-I-B-L-E from which I like to take all my themes in life) is that “the truth shall set you free.” And though the Bible is hitting on loftier themes than this, on the streets of Paris the particular truth that humans do need bathrooms from time to time did indeed set me free — to pursue more culture, more croissants, more adventure.

And in five days’ time it only cost me a couple of Euros.  Money well spent.

Paying in advance seems perfectly reasonable.


Main photo taken at Ephesus, Turkey.

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