I’ll admit it: it was not what I was looking for. What I had actually hoped to find was one of the new red Parisian uritrottoirs, which have recently been in the news. According to reports, this latest attempt to solve the problem of where to pee in Paris has been causing controversy because the new street furniture is desecrating the views of some of Paris’s most noteworthy landmarks. Well, I visited a few of Paris’s most noteworthy landmarks and I didn’t spot a uritrottoir anywhere.
However, idly strolling down a fairly nondescript street in the 14th arrondissement, I was suddenly struck by a powerful sense of déjà vu. I’d been here before. Not in real life. But on Google Street View. I recognised the high wall of La Santé Prison; even the dull office block opposite was familiar. I looked at the street name: Boulevard Arago. It rang a bell. Why?
And then I saw it: something, which previously I had only managed to track down in the virtual world; something, which, if I am being honest, I had no intention of ever hunting out in reality. The last pissoir in Paris.
It is a sorry looking object. Neglected, unused, although I suspect not unloved. Like the final survivor of any race, it will attract its supporters; the far-sighted seers who realise that we only miss what we take for granted when it has gone.
Lonesome George, the last Pinta tortoise on the Galápagos Islands, would have sympathised with the fate of the Boulevard Arago vespasienne. Not allowed to retreat into a peaceful retirement, instead he became a conservation icon, the fate of his entire species resting on his scaly shoulders. Judging by the sad state of the last pissoir, it looks as though the same weight of responsibility has been too much for the old thing.
I’m not quite sure why the pissoir in Boulevard Arago has been permitted to survive while all its kin have been destroyed. An oversight in a town planning office somewhere perhaps? One thing I am sure: it is not from sentiment. That emotion is left to me.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny finds doing circuits helps her bladder control.
E. C. Glendenny is a campaigner for wildplassen and toilet tourism.