Dad's Memories

- 27 August 98 - 27 August 98

"Bidets to Bullfights"

c - Arthur J. Langdon -1970

013b -- Paris - "Introduction to 'Bidets', foreign currencies, paper conservation & resolution of the hotel key problem" -- 013b

There are astronauts and cosmnonauts

and aquanuuts as well.

And men who work at other jobs

and have no fear of Hell.

To estimate the danger rate as

mini, midi, maxi -

The garland has to go to the driver

of a Paris taxi.

A taxi from the airport in Paris to your hotel can be compared to nothing else but a roller coaster ride at Coney Island. In New York, cabbies just play chicken. In Paris, passing any other vehicle by more than the width of a pubic hair is chicken, and to drive with the accelerator pedal any place but on the floor seems to be grounds for immediate dismissal from the taxi corps, with consequent loss of license. The effect of this taxi trip after a dose of French coffee with resultant mal de mer is one not to bring a desire of it's repetition.

There are two porcelain bowls in a good Paris Inn.

One has a seat, it's obviously for sittin'.

The other is bigger, but to small to get in.

So what's a girl do when she goes a "bidet-in"?

After, and I believe only because of, numerous protestant prayers - with a few acts of contrition thrown in - we did arrive at our hotel, bathed in perspiration!! The confirmed reservations proved to be a boon, and in the hour it took to find them, we were shown to our room. Then came my first real understanding that the French had something really worth while that we had not thought of. For, my first exploration of the room was "where is the bathroom." This because of a now acute gastronomical emergency created by the French coffee and agrivated by the adventures in the taxi.

There it was - not one - but two receptacles!!

The first one had a conventional lid on top which took time to remove - but the other one was open and bigger around. After relieving the choke and rejoiling the race, I discovered that I had defiled that sanctum of French feminity - the "bidet". After thirty years of marriage, and five children, I am not yet familiar enough with feminine fixtures to begin to know what feminine plumbing has to do with them, but the bidet had obvious alternate uses. While I'm not sure, I think it could be possible that the advent of BC (birth control) pills might present a hazard to the future expanxion of those engaged in the bidet manufacturing business.

A real pleasant and unexpected surprise on checking into our Paris hotel, where rooms had been reserved some weeks ahead, was a llarge boquet of beautifully arranged flowers bearing a card from the hotel manager which said - "Welcome to Paris Mr. and Mrs. Langdon". Another completely practical, and new to first timers in Paris, item was an introduction to the French bath towel. On emerging from the shower and groping for a towel, you discover it to be about six feet long and four feet wide. It has full length sleeves and a high collar, and oversize bath robe of heavy towelling. No instruction is necessary, you put it on when soaking wet and do about eight measures of cha-cha-cha cha cha and become completely dry - even in those hard to get at places. Ingenious !

There are exchange rates to figure out, the money you'll be usin'.

And banks and other places too, you always end up losin'.

When dollars change to francs and things, it almost is amusin'.

They never equal out to meet, the rates you've been perusin'.

Money is no problem at all - as long as you have plenty of it. What does take some getting used to is using francs, or marks, or escudos instead of dollars. When you first start out, you simply offer the waiter one of each denomination of the local currency. He immediately joins in the game and quickly selects the largest bill and then counts out in you hand a few coins accompanied with a barrage of the local language (which - of course you don't understand) and with an angelic smile intended to be reassuring, then departs. This procedure in relatively short time leaves you devoid of bills, and with ten pounds of coins in your pocket. You then revert to the alternative method - of guessing how many coins will pay the next bill and when you offer them - you watch the waiter frown, then add a few more, and when he still frowns you say - "the hell with it, do you take American Express, Diners Club, or the good ol yankee dollar?" Then, you try to think of another way to get rid of ten pounds of local coinage.

The French and German innkeepers have devised at least two ways of cutting down on the use of paper in their hotels - and this in any hotel must be an item of considerable expense. At breakfast time, courtesy of the house, several of the days newspapers are provided without charge. Each paper is enclosed in a wooden binder consisting of two wooden sticks as long as the paper and spring hinged together with a handle at the end and an wire loop on the handle. The papers in this wooden binder are then hung on a coat rack and available for the patrons to read - but they are also extreamly awkward to carry out.

The other way of saving paper is positively ingenious. The toilet tissue, if you will pardon the expression, is made one inch narrower than what we consider to be standard, which saves at least twenty per cent on the number of square inches per roll. And, the "so called - tissue" in some mysterious fashion is impregnated with a mildly abrasive material. When put to its intended use, it brings to mind of the unsuspecting user thoughts like cleaning the fuzz out of your belly button with sandpaper. I suspect that the surgeons where this toilet paper is used perform very few hemmoradectomies - since the obvious solution to this problem is to encourage a case of diarrhea and use the available material to sand down the offending protuberances.

One other area of concern, the way our American hotels are run, is the key problem. When you check in American style, it is one key for you and one for your wife. A good part of the time you find, after checking out thet you still have one or two keys for room 625 in San Francisco's Saint Francis Hotel - but you are now back in Connecticut. Of course you can drop them in the mail box for free return to the hotel, but menawhile - what is happening to room 625 at the St. Francis?

This vexing situation has been solved in Europe by issuing one key on admission to which is affixed a metal object weighing at least two pounds and linked thereto by a chain. It is to heavy and to big to stick in your pocket - so when you go out the only logical thing to do is to leave it at the desk. Some minor problems do exist with the key fastened to a hammer head - such as when your everloving is tired and wants to rest awhile and you want to see if the local beer is as good as it's cracked up to be. Do you lock her in a room where she can't get out and take the key - or let the door remain unlocked during the rest period and trust to the fidelity of those who will pass during the beer testing period? After due deliberation, I decided that doing research on the relative merits of various beeers was more important than testing the fedelity of the natives. So, I locked the door and drank some research, very good too. But, I feel I must do more research on the matter before reaching a conclusion. Fortunately no one set fire to the hotel while I was gone or my wife would have really been burned up.

Index - Uncle Art & Aunt Clara's trip to Europe - 1970, "Bidets to Bullfights"

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