Spring Forward, Fall Back

French hotels often have a separate little room for the toilet, which makes a sort of sense, I suppose. Unfortunately, because in Parisian hotels space is at an absolute premium, sometimes there end up being rather a lot of doors and cramped little bathrooms (plural) in one’s otherwise comfortable hotel room. The first one I stayed in last week had the two rooms on opposite sides of a tiny vestibular hallway, at the end of which was a closet. With both bathroom doors closed, one could access the closet. With either open, the closet was not operable, nor was the other bathroom door. After struggling with this arrangement for a bit, knocking doors together and cursing, my solution was to leave both doors open wide so that they both pressed against the front of the closet, with one behind the other, and I left my clothes in my suitcase. I could have kept all the doors closed at all times, but by that point I was not going to let the doors win.

This hotel has a slightly different setup: the toilet room is about two feet square, making it plenty big enough for the toilet and one adult human who is either on or in the toilet. And because the door to this little room has been thoughtfully equipped with a powerful spring mechanism–much like one would find on the front door of a retail establishment, say a hardware store–that forces it shut with extreme prejudice, one can easily find oneself on or in the toilet, whatever one’s desired distance and position within the tiny room relative to the toilet may have been upon entering. From being pulled open wide enough to walk through, the spring conveys the long right-angled chrome steel door handle into one’s posterior with about the same force as a moped going 20 miles an hour. With a fat guy on it. And, hypothetically of course, if one happened to be turning around and sitting down as one entered, the selfsame angular steel door handle comes helpfully speeding in, right at forehead height, with the same force, denting one’s skull and propelling one backwards into–wait for it–the toilet. This would of course be hilarious if it happened to someone else.

Also, a hot water pipe runs up the wall of this tiny chamber, and the water inside it is as hot as if it was pumped directly from cooling the nearest nuclear power plant. Which, come to think of it, is probably the case. The result is the fortuitous invention of a combination toilet and sauna, the many sweaty pleasures of which make one marvel that it has not swept the world as the new must-have bathroom fixture, especially when combined with a trebuchet of a door spring. Who wouldn’t want to be flung headlong into a 170˚ toilet and then be hermetically sealed inside? Why, to not have one of these would be like wearing last season’s Chanel to a première at Cannes.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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