Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nurse the Hate: French Revenge

I had been walking around the French town of Selestat looking for a safe bathroom.  One of the real areas of tradecraft in being a traveling musician is the ability to find a private and clean toilet.  Most clubs bathrooms, even in Europe, can be fearful.  On this particular occasion I knew I would need some privacy as my meal from the previous evening was made up of things like strange blood sausages, horrific German red wine, and sauerkraut.  There is no good end to that particular combination.  As this was France, I would probably need a permit for what I was about to do, and certainly I would not have the proper documents necessary to get processed in time for the event that had announced itself with increasing authority.

One of the things that baffle me more and more as I travel is the condition of toilets.  I think each one of us has a story much more horrible than any wartime atrocity involving a public bathroom.  Finding a bathroom in unusable condition is certainly not a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.  We have all been there.  I like to think that most people I am friendly with (except Leo of course) are incapable of doing the things I have seen in men’s rooms across this planet.  How exactly does one get fecal matter on walls?  Is it a lack of technique?  Is there a legion of men out there that get into a stall and just don’t know the most efficient way of handling their business in there?  “Oh Christ!  Wait!  You sit on that with your pants down?  I thought that was some sort of sink!”

It is hard to get in the mindset of someone that walks into a common use space, destroys it, and then comfortably walks away.  Let’s get past the idea that some people are beyond redemption, and exist exclusively on a “fuck everyone else” basis.  There is no question these people exist.  Still, I can’t imagine how they get themselves in the position to defecate on floors/walls, leave soiled TP everywhere, and then don’t think to themselves “You know, one day I might be the next one in a stall like this.  I can’t do this.  I just can’t.”  Yet, they do…  Then the rest of us are forced to live a life of caution and fear while looking for a men’s room.

So here I was, walking in this small French village in cowboy boots, jeans, and a baseball hat before a show.  I couldn’t be more American unless I was in an Uncle Sam outfit while on stilts holding sparklers.  The last thing I was going to do was walk into an empty restaurant, go all the way to the men’s room in the back, and then leave without purchase.  I care about the rest of you.  You think I want you to run into an angry French dude whose only experience with Americans was a guy that exploded out blood sausage and sauerkraut and left without even buying a Pernod?  Those folks forgot all about D-Day.  They have moved on.  International relations are tricky.  This was a delicate matter.

I walked around the town like a Toilet Goldilocks.  Finally I found a public building that was open for some sort of crafts fair.  This is absolutely ideal for those novice travelers out there.  Public buildings like this get very little use, but have cleanliness guidelines mandated by the State.  The only thing better is an empty church.  I walked across the wooden floors looking at the unmanned trade show booths, making no eye contact with the two people in the room.  Bang!  I spot a staircase that must lead to the toilets.  Bingo!  I walk inside and it is as clean as I would have hoped with three pristine stalls.  The only issue is an academic looking French dude in wire rimmed glasses that is washing his hands.  He gets one look at me in my Uncle Scratch t-shirt and sniffs with disapproval.  “Wow!  They actually do that!”, I thought to myself.

So I close myself into one of the stalls and get down to business, a wave of relief cascading over me.  I am not going to sugar coat this.  It was bad.  Very bad.  Suddenly, the door closes as the French guy leaves and the lights go out.  What a dick!  I am now in total darkness as this French dude decided to make some kind of statement and shut me in the dark.  It was then “The Miracle of Selestat” occurred, and I realized that the Uncle Scratch t-shirt I was wearing was glow –in-the-dark, providing more than enough light to finish what I had started in peace. 

The only reason I bring up this horrible topic at all was today I went into a public bathroom after a heroic amount of iced green tea.  I was minding my own business at the urinal when in walks this guy speaking rapid fire French into a cellphone, wrapping up his call as the door shut.  He shut himself into the stall, a series of noises announcing that he would be embarking on some sort of project.  I washed my hands and hit the automatic dryer.  That’s when I spotted the light switch by the door handle.

The argument could be made that this was some sort of cosmic opportunity to get revenge on the people of France.  I had been in the exact right moment at the exact right time to allow this cosmic balancing of the scales.  Of course, it did pop into my head that he could have been French-Canadian, and why drag the people of Quebec into this whole mess?  What did the Canadians have to do with the Blackout of Selestat?  My gut tells me he was French though.  It was that fucked up sport jacket and swarthy beard that put it up and over.  I considered carefully.  It crossed my mind that maybe this was some sort of test, as in “could I be the better man”?  If I flipped the switch, would I be answering for this in some sort of afterlife tribunal?  “Look, I have already explained my actions at that 1987 Halloween party.  I also will stand by following my heart on that matter on the East Coast years ago.  Why do we have to even discuss a simple light switch incident in 2014?  That was so long ago!  Certainly as a Saint, I would expect you, Peter, to have more pressing matters…”

In the end I decided to leave the light as it was, that just knowing I could have had my terrible revenge was enough.  However, if I ever find myself in Selestat again and hustle into that trade association men’s room, all bets are off.       


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