Toilettes are an important part of life wherever and whenever you travel. Knowing how to use them, how they work and where they are is ESSENTIAL when you are living in France.
One thing I learned about the toilets--at least in LePuy and in Lyon--is that they flush with a vengeance and that it’s best to put on the lid to prevent the water from splashing all over you AND the seat.
Another thing to know is that toilets are not readily available in France as they are in the USA. Thus, you have to plan both your timing for use and the quantities of liquid you consume. Cafés and restaurants usually have a facility, but you must be a customer to use them. I haven't seen any gas stations in the downtown area where I live and go to school, so it’s important to plan ahead when I'm en route.
Unfortunately, the two toilets for women at school aren’t always functioning and there is usually a long line to use them. One usually works and the other either lacks paper or a light—and there are no windows. Only the cold water for the sink works and the hand dryer doesn’t stay on very long, so I resort to drying my hands “camping-style” on my pants.
I learned another hard lesson after just two weeks of too much gourmet cheese and tasty French bread and not enough water: they are gastronomically binding. This can make flushing the toilet problematic and cause and also cause an overflow of water on the floor. So a handy mop, bucket or a supply of sop-up towels is useful to avoid seepage in the apartment below.
Recently I had the unfortunate experience of an overflowing toilet and fortunately, my apartment copine (mate), Marie Therese (M.T.) was there to help me. Even though it was a little difficult to understand her French as the water started to overflow, I did manage to understand her to say: “What did you do?” I was at a loss for words except for “où est la mop?” Fortunately, she understood me when she saw what was happening. She quickly gave me some sop-up towels and a bucket because she didn’t have a mop. I scurried as fast as I could to clean up the water.
After I finished cleaning the floor, I took a bit of a rest but was concerned that the toilet wasn’t yet ready for use. I needed to use the toilet again, but was afraid it might overflow, so I went upstairs to use the one in the Cinquième (the other sisters’ apartment on the 5th floor). M.T., Rose and Marie Phillippe were entertaining another sister, Cristianne, who was visiting Rose for her birthday celebration. (We had just returned from a Lebanese-style meal at a local restaurant.) When M.T. saw me, she asked me what I was going on.
“I’m afraid of the toilet on the Deuxième,” I said in my broken French that could best make my point. “Do you have a plunger?”
M.T. didn’t have a plunger (ventouse), so she asked Rose if she had one. Meanwhile, I’m sure that Marie Phillippe and Cristiene wondered what the heck was going on with all this whispering.
Humor did not escape either M.T. or me as we laughed throughout this whole situation. Fortunately, I was successful in my use of the plunger. M.T. congratulated me that I both knew how to fix the toilet, that I quickly cleaned up the water, and that I was willing to do it all. Well, c’est pratique!
M.T. went back up to the Cinquième to be with the sisters and later told me that during their prayers in the afternoon, she couldn’t keep from giggling about this latest aventure de Madame Beaubien.