It’s A Privilege to Pee

Posted on February 9th, 2012 by

I first became aware that it was a privilege to pee in Nantes while at H&M.  When I asked where the bathroom was, the girl paused, gave me a look, and indicated the bathroom outside.  With the urgency of a full-bladdered child (and precisely the same problem), I dashed outside to find a kind of permanent, pay-per-pee outhouse.  Next to the door was an inviting coin-slot, which dared passers-by to gamble 50 cents that they couldn’t find another bathroom in time.

A few days later, I had planned on picking up a few grocery items on my way home in the evening.  Upon my arrival at a bathroom-less grocery store, I realized I would barely make it home without shopping.  Unfortunately, there only seem to be about eight bathrooms in Nantes: the four at the IES Abroad center, three in my homestay, and the pay-per-pee near H&M.  So, I took the soonest tram home, sans groceries.

Then, nearly a week ago, I left early in the morning to swing by the public transit office for a new monthly pass.  But the morning was cold, and by nature of not yet having my pass, I had to walk.  I had also been sick, and was trying to drink more water.  Being of an impatient internal plumbing system, this meant more frequent bathroom needs.  Approaching central Nantes, with the sensation of cobble stones beneath my steps, I began to get another feeling.  It informed me with no degree of uncertainty that I would not hold out if I stopped to get my pass, so I trotted angrily to the IES center, and its island-like facilities.

I can’t even pretend I don’t understand how the French hold it, because they don’t need to.  They barely drink any water.  I never see water bottles, restaurants are not very generous with water, and even the glasses are smaller.  I understand the opposition to over-flushing, but water is a relatively handy tool in the body’s quest to do things like remain alive.

My frustration is compounded by those who are not limited to bathrooms.  Among the grave injustices of Nantes is that, while people cannot go to the bathroom wherever the need visits them, dogs can.  After cigarette butts, the number 1 item  found on the sidewalks of Nantes is dog business.  It’s disgusting.  It is probably for this reason that France has government-mandated periods of sales (it’s like Christmas sales, without the pseudo-religious reasons, and it’s required by law).  That way, the French can replace their very fashionable shoes and boots on a regular basis with ones not soiled by the evidence of a healthy canine digestive system.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many further insights than my incredulity, because I’m still trying to figure out this small, but frustrating difference.  Perhaps it’s an independence mindset, where people cannot expect to wander around, taken care of by the bathrooms of others.  I could be in a part of Nantes that happens to be lucklessly bathroom barren, and I’m over-generalizing to all of France.  Maybe water really is that expensive (I do not have to pay for it directly, and don’t know actual prices).  There could be a simple solution to this mystery, or I could be an idiot and it’s no mystery at all.  But when I’m dashing through the streets of Nantes towards a bathroom, hopping over dog droppings as I go, I can only ask myself why the French don’t drink more water, and their dogs don’t eat more cheese.  I just miss back home, where I feel entitled, and not privileged, to pee.



Comments are closed.