Every time I pass on of these high-tech loo pods in the streets of Paris, it calls to mind a story I once heard about a drowned toddler. I carried out some internet ‘research’, but found no proof that this actually happened, so presumably it is urban myth. Regardless, however desperate I might be, I can’t bring myself to use these automated contraptions.
Firstly, I am suspicious of the automatic door which closes behind you. Just how long would I have before it glides open? What if it malfunctions, revealing me at my most vulnerable, underwear around ankles, to a bustling Parisian street? And what if the cleaning mechanism kicks in and spray me from head to toe in disinfectant? Does the floor really open when this happens? I don’t think I want to find out.
The alternative of course is to use a café toilet. You don’t usually have to pay for the privilege, but you may get more than you bargained for. The queue for the cubicles is often directly opposite the urinals. Not exactly eye candy whether these are in use or not. This proximity is unlikely to be a source of distress/embarrassment to the average French male. Don’t forget, he has no qualms about relieving himself in the street in broad daylight.
What the French call “Turkish” toilets (i.e. holes in the floor) are still fairly common, even in Paris. Females beware: if wearing trousers, any minor miscalculation of trajectory will result in an unpleasant splashback effect.
On a more positive note, I did discover on my fairly extensive tour of Paris conveniences (when heavily pregnant) that metro/underground toilets are not as horrific as I imagined. At Madeleine they are art nouveau, kept in pristine condition by the Dame Pipi (the attendant who takes your 30 centimes) and have shoe shine throne if you fancy a break and a bit of French polishing.