Silly Stories: La Toilette

When Madame first brought me into her home, and gave me the lay of the land, I never thought my worst enemy in the apartment would be something in the bathroom. For heaven’s sake, her cat still doesn’t really like me… but the toilet? Give me a break… Madame has a toilet with a pull-flush. When you’re done… doing your business, you have to pull the knob up toward the ceiling and let go so it comes crashing down toward the toilet to flush it. She showed me how to do it during the tour, and flat out said, “if you have a problem with it, just come and get me, and I’ll fix it, because if you flush it with too much force, the water will keep running.” Of course, the first time I used it, I stared into the bowl like someone from the other side of the equator, hoping the water would stop running… and it didn’t. I tried pulling on the knob again… still wouldn’t stop. Clearly, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I asked Madame to fix it. I watched her. When I flushed it initially, I didn’t let go of the knob, I pushed it back to the toilet, and Madame doesn’t do it that way. Maybe that was the trick…

Many “oval office” visits later, and I’m still not getting this quite right. I don’t have to get Madame to fix it every time, but it takes me a few “flushes” to get the water to stop running, and it’s terribly embarrassing. It’s one thing to get outsmarted by an appliance. It’s another thing to get outsmarted by something that deals with… crotte on a regular basis. To date, I’ve had to go get Madame, head in hands four times. Thankfully, she’s been understanding and vanquished the running water with a smile.
“Je pense qu’il y a un secret, et je ne le sais pas encore…”
It took me five days to flush the dang thing correctly on the first yank. I’m not too ashamed to admit I did a celebratory jig in the bathroom when it happened. To date, I’ve only done that three times. I can’t begin to describe how embarrassed I am to admit that the number of times I’ve had to ask Madame for help outnumbers how many times I’ve flushed the toilet properly. I never thought there would come a time when I’d dread using the facilities, but that day has arrived. I’ll sit on the bathtub and watch the water run, then I’ll try to get the water to stop. Sometimes turning the knob a little bit, then trying to flush again works. Sometimes pulling it up halfway works. Sometimes pulling it all the way up works. Sometimes pushing the knob down instead of letting gravity “do it’s thing” works. Sometimes none of this works and then I start to panic. Pacing helps. Cursing helps (but only in French, the toilet doesn’t speak English). Rubbing my belly and patting my head at the same time does not help. The only thing I can think of to adequately compare how I feel when I stare at the toilet right after I’ve flushed it that first time to, is how a young unmarried woman must feel when she hasn’t craved chocolate in seven weeks, and she’s staring at a stick hoping that she only sees ONE blue line instead of two.
Needless to say, when I had my interview with Mme. Parnet about what kind of a host family I wanted in Paris, she was a little shocked at my inquiry about what kind of flushing system the family’s toilet has.
Oh, toilet gods of France, please smile on me as I’m placed in a new host family in Paris… because I really don’t want to make them hate me for running up the water bill…

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