Public Peeing in a Paris Park

by Gai Reid   

Just below the brickwork of the fence line on one of the busiest streets in this enormous city, a fully-grown woman was squatting over the autumn leaves next to a tree that had no hope in hell of disguising her need to go. This was a manoeuvre I had performed myself many times, under the cover of the Australian bush.  Never once did I consider I would see it here in the epicenter of Paris.

My friend Heather and I had been travelling in France for two weeks. On this day we had been on the move for almost five hours and had covered around eight kilometres of Paris, à pied. We trekked from the Madeleine to the Eiffel Tower, backtracking down the Champs Élysées to place de la Concorde. Our sights were set on a late, lingering lunch but there was a more pressing need welling. Finding a public toilet in Paris is challenging at the best of times. We knew there was a ladies loo near the Tuileries metro stop so onwards we plodded.  

When we arrived, Les toilettes had disappeared! During the last few days my friend and I had noticed workmen erecting a series of white plastic pavilions along the edge of the gardens near the rue de Rivoli. Fashion week in Paris was causing some serious bathroom moments. With an increasing sense of urgency, we made an abrupt about-turn back to where we’d entered the park and shunned a queue at the bathroom facilities. 

About one hundred metres down the path, I spotted a woman in a familiar position. The waistband of her jeans was wrapped around her knees and the exposed expanse of thigh was hard to miss. Close to the scene, another woman hovered closely. They were obviously friends because the one with her jeans in the correct place was forming a human shield. No supermodel could do THAT so effectively! I nudged Heather but being within ear-shot of the peeing pair, I said nothing. The two of us kept walking, pretending not to notice or, in the probable event of that failing, pretending to not care. 

The now-very-relieved woman scurried to pull an inadequate, black g-string over her bare derriere and retrieve what was left of her dignity. I supposed her alternative wasn’t a good one. Hysterical laughter threatened and I was afraid to look at my friend, keeping my eyes fixed on the gravel path. Luckily, we made it back to join the long queue at the conveniences downstairs from where we entered the Tuileries.  I was relieved in more ways than one.

Gai Reid is an accomplished travel writer, blogger and author. She’s always been a storyteller, first through art, and now in words and pictures in her blog and book “Postcards From France.” Gai honed her talent in the tough world of television as a graphic artist, writer and producer. It was here she discovered her ability to distill the essence of a story through research.

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