What Never to Get Caught Doing in a French Public Restroom or How Being Cheap Got Me Caught with My Pants Down!

I’ll tell you right off – right from the start – the moral of this story is “Never travel with a cheapskate, and if you do, be sure you carry your own money, and in the right currency!”

We were heading for Turin, Italy, to see one of the rare showings of the famous Shroud of Turin, supposedly the actual cloth that covered the body of Jesus Christ after he was taken down from the cross.

We had started in the South of France after visiting a good friend in Provence.    There were several routes we could have taken to Turin, but my divorced friend was easily led astray when I said that I had heard the beaches of the French Riviera were filled with beautiful French women.  .  .  sunbathing.  .  .  naked!

So we headed south to the beaches.  I’d never been down that road before and was surprised by the traffic and how long it took us to get anywhere.  We’d been drinking water for hours on this warm summer day when we finally decided we’d better stop, get something to eat, and (especially) to find a restroom.

The best place we could find to park was right in downtown St. Tropez, which was tantalizing because I remembered the old suntan lotion commercial jingle “BAIN DE SOLEIL for the ST. Tropez Tan”.  Surely this is a place loaded with bathing beauties on such a gorgeous day – blue skies with puffy clouds, warm temperatures.

It was difficult to find a place to park because, apparently, it was a celebration day in St. Tropez, with parades of 17th century costumed characters, soldiers,  and musicians.  We found a place to park, but knew we couldn’t wait long to find a restroom.  My friend was not an experienced traveler and seemed bewildered about what to do, but I noted a Visitors Bureau nearby and thought for sure there would be restrooms there.  Unfortunately, there were not – but the nice ladies directed us to a public restroom down by the pier.  They failed, however, to tell us it was a *pay* public restroom.

It was a few long blocks down to the restroom.  When we got there my traveling companion (who never failed to put himself first) said, “I’ll go first”, took some change out of his pocket and went inside the small concrete building.

Unfortunately, the other one of these unisex restrooms was closed for repair.  I didn’t have change anyway, since my friend had said there was no reason for me to change money – he would just get enough to last us until we got out of France.  I stood there anxious and helpless, waiting for him to re-appear.  A few minutes later he opened the door.  I asked for some change, but he said there was no need for me to use change – I could just go in since he was holding the door.  I might have argued, but I was in urgent need of the facilities, having been drinking (water) for the past several hours.  I stepped inside as the door, slammed shut behind me, and heard my associate mumble that he would go check out the parade.

It was at that very moment things started to go awry.  The zipper on my old pants was stuck, and the only way to deal with the situation was to peel the denim down over my hips – I’d worry about getting them back up later.  But just as I accomplished that task I heard a loud thunk.  It sounded like a lock snapping shut.  It sounded, in fact, like the lock of a prison door that was never going to open again – and that was close to being right.

While that was distressing, it was not quite as distressing as having the lights go off in this windowless room – to find myself in pitch dark in a large, musty smelling concrete bunker.  Nonetheless, I was there for a reason which was not easily forgotten.  I thought I would deal with the lack of light and the possible locked door later – and just at that moment, things went from bad to worse.

I took in a deep, quick breath at the sound of a hissing snake in one corner of the room.  Now, I live in an area where we have rattlesnakes in the hills – but this was not the sound of a rattlesnake.  It was a hissing, like some awful sort of viper I would not recognize or have any idea how deadly it might be.  And suddenly, I figured I must be in a nest of them because the sound seemed to be echoing and coming from all over the room.  Being in the dark was no advantage in this situation!

All I could think of was the line from the Indiana Jones movie “Snakes.  .  .  why did it have to be snakes!?!”  Suddenly, I was somewhat relieved to realize the hissing was not the sound of snakes, but of high-pressure water coming through small jets – in fact dozens of jets – all over the room.  This was a self-cleaning restroom and I, in total darkness with my pants down, was also being cleaned.

I quickly finished what I was doing and managed (with some great difficulty) to wriggle my soaking pants back up to a “decent” level.  Totally wet from the navel down, including my shoes, I now proceeded to wash my hands in the dark and find my way over to the door -which indeed had been electronically locked!  So, that the clean, dark room was all ready to open only for the next visitor with the proper change.  Unfortunately, I could hear no visitors outside waiting to come in.  In fact, even the increasing volume of my shouts and pounding on the door could elicit no response.

After what seemed like an interminable time I finally heard a familiar twang.  It was, in fact, a middle-aged, overweight Texas twang.  “Where is your money, Jim Bob?” was actually a melodious sound to my anxious ears.  When this lovely Southern belle finally found the correct change and opened the door, I stepped out in my wet pants and squishy shoes, shrugged, and in my best French accent  said, “Pardon, mademoiselle”.    As I passed by Jim Bob’s startled wife , Jim Bob muttered, “Crazy French!  You be careful in there Susie Mae!”


Rusty notes: Some folks especially those new to the adventures of Rusty Waters might question the veracity of some of Rusty’s stories.  Perhaps this comment from reader David will teach those people a lesson!

I liked your story of what not to do in France. I was in Paris back in the early 80’s and we had a guy in our group do something similar. We were a mixed group of Air Force and Army stationed in Germany and we were taking a weekend trip to Paris.

What the French had was small domes located about the city. The dome was a bit over 6 feet tall. And yes, you had to pay to use the bathroom. Now every group has a cheapskate and we had ours. The cost was only a couple of francs and at the time $1.00 got you 10 francs. So the cost to use the public bathroom was 20 cents.

I had just finished using the bathroom and this guy asks me to hold the door. With the dome it seems they only had one spray point at the very top inside. All there was inside was just a stool/urinal thing. For these units, the spray not only cleaned but it was the flusher. That guy came out soaked from head to foot, ha ha ha.

For years people have thought I made the story up. I am glad to see I finally got some backing on this. Thanks,


Happy to back you up David and pleased to see your post as further evidence that sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be cheap!