There’s nothing like Westin toilets

Unrelated image of a fish I found floating in the Marais near my house.

Parisian bars are typically hole-in-the-wall joints with hole-in-the-floor toilets. At an educated guess, there’s more Turkish toilets in Paris than in Turkey.

I’m not sure the reason for this Gallic persuasion for squatting on your bot, but it might be to do with practicality; and I’m only referring to the practicality of cleaning the toilet.

After my esteemed career as a high school janitor, I know how unpleasant it can be to clean a complete toilet – by complete I mean one with a seat and cistern. Much more fun than to splash some bleach and aim a hose; 2 seconds later it’s clean.

Some toilets on the street are cleaner than those in bars. Paris gained international fame a few years ago for installing self-cleaning toilets on the footpaths of busy streets, (and sure, this city has had claims to fame before, but one can’t rest on one’s laurels).

Perhaps inspired, some bars have taken on board the concept of the self-cleaning toilet. At the so-called Horseshoe bar in the Marais, Le Petit Fer au Cheval, toilet-goers are advised to be nimble.

The bathroom might resemble something like the interior of Dr Who’s Tardis, in so much as the amount of steel and chrome used, but the toilet itself is anything but futuristic. A stainless steel squatter (oh how they like to think these things are stainless, but they are not!) that when you flush, the water rushes up and over like the incoming tide at Mont St Michel. Better unlock that door in advance or you’ll find yourself ankle deep and rising.

I digress.

Last night, my manager invited me to take a drink at the Westin hotel. It’s a bit of posh bar, and certainly not one I’ve ever been seen in, or would ever be able to affordably drink in.

I entered through the door on rue Rivoli to find the bar’s famous boudoir. A boudoir is apparently a women’s room – and should not to be confused with a boudinnoir, a sausage made of pig blood and flour.

When I say that the Westin’s boudoir is ‘famous,’ I mean in the sense that the bar makes a point of advertising this feature; after all, with its location opposite the swish Tuilleries gardens they were hardly going to be advertising cheap happy hour drinks prices.

My destination was the courtyard terrace. Upon arriving, I scanned quickly to look for the table where she and another colleague were allegedly sitting. Neither were answering their mobiles; neither was apparently there.

To bide my time, I tried to find the bathrooms. This place was so posh it made me want to say bathrooms, not toilets. Not finding anything remotely resembling a toilet door, I at last stumbled into what looked like from the outside a janitor’s closet. It was marked with a disabled users sign. Jackpot! For disabled people, disabled toilets must be a key benefit that can be enjoyed at the expense of the more able-bodied – what, with the large mirrors, privacy, and room to manouvre.

The Westin took this idea even further – here was a long corridor lined with toilets in individual cubicles. I imagined a wheelchaired person rolling up and down the length of the tiles pushing on each cubicle door till he found the toilet that most tickled his fancy.

Perhaps each cubicle had a different literary theme – the interior décor of each designed to reflect a different literary masterpiece; from Nabokov’s Lolita – which would have a peephole into the girl’s toilets; to an Alice in Wonderland interior, that might have nothing but a rabbit hole.

Flummoxed by choice, I did what any man does in this situation and chose the first toilet that had its seat up. Approaching a public toilet with its lid closed always fills me with a sense of trepidation; you never know what you’re going to find.

I had a pee, wiped the floor, then tried again but this time aiming more carefully. With my mind and bladder now free of pressure, I was almost whistling when I exited the stall – and found myself face-to-face with a rather handsome woman.

“This is the men’s toilets, right?”  I asked.

As happens so often, my brain knew that something wasn’t quite right, yet chose to not entertain the most plausible reason. It was the type of question that I probably should have been asked while still outside the bathroom.

“No, I think it’s the women’s,” she replied.

‘Where to go from here,’ my ever helpful brain asked.

“Well, it’s always good to check what life’s like for the other sex,” I found my mouth saying.

Maybe the woman didn’t understand me, or maybe she did, because she then said, “Are you Russian?”

Only in the sense of ‘rushin’ to get out of here. I was neither a woman nor disabled, which gave me good little reason to be here.

Once outside, in the unisex corridor, I walked back to the terrace. With friends still not in sight, I briskly left.

Riding home, I reflected on my night at the Westin bar. I had essentially travelled 30 minutes to get there, walked in, peed in the women’s toilet, then left. But I had a backup plan – another girlfriend was at La Perle bar near my house. It has singular, squishy, unpretentious doorless Turkish toilets, but as such, there is far less room to create awkard moments of discomfort.


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