I live in France year 'round, but only during film festivals do I rediscover
just how extensive is the range of idiotically designed toilet stalls in this
fine nation where culture reigns supreme.
Clusters of harried women, each at the mercy of her bladder's capacity
regardless of her mental capacity or mental log of film lore, overrun the
toilet facilities in the Lumiere Auditorium, in the Debussy Auditorium, in
the Noga Hilton, in the Palais in general. There's never enough room to
maneuver - which is always maddening in a purpose-built facility. But the
design feature I'll never, ever understand is the floor-to-ceiling,
hermetically sealed ratio of door-to-stall.
The women of North America will tell you that you must have one of two
features in a public toilet: either the lock must indicate whether the stall
is Vacant or Occupied (via words to that effect or through the time-honored
use of sliding red and green). Or there must be enough space between where
the door ends and the floor begins for a reasonably agile individual to bend
over and see for themselves whether or not a tell-tale pair of feet or legs
is currently ensconced in a given stall. The toilet stalls of Cannes
incorporate none, repeat, none of these features.
They do boast a space-aged flush-and-sanitize mechanism involving infrared
heat. But the alleged absence of germs is scant comfort in the sustained
presence of fumes and fragrances that have been sealed into the stall for the
simple reason that the door extends all the way down to the floor. I'm a
mere film critic, not a hygiene engineer, but I think it may be said in all
fairness that if everybody thinks he's a critic, most of us share comparable
bodily functions. And as surely as Jacques Rivette can no longer tell a
story in less than four hours, I would think that when it comes to heavily
trafficked restrooms, ventilation would be a priority.
Maybe there's an exceptionally powerful Union of Toilet Stall Door
Manufacturers who dictate that all doors installed in new public restrooms
must be, you'll pardon the expression, flush with the floor. And maybe some
sardonic social engineer decided that people LIKE to be "interrupted" by the
sound of some misguided soul yanking on the stall's knob in hopes that the
locked door will swing open.
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