When I was stationed in Germany, I had a chance to travel a bit and see Europe. One of the places I decided to visit was Paris for a week. I went alone and booked a room at a hostel near the attractions. The very first night, I ate a dinner at a local restaurant and one of the items I tried was the escargot…that’s right, snails sautéed in a creamy butter sauce. It didn’t taste too bad so I chomped them down, you know, when in Paris…
I’m not 100% sure if it was the snails, but I got food poisoning from something. I spent a good part of my night and the next few days using the shared bathroom in the hostel to express my stomach’s happiness at what it ate. Notice the keyword “shared.” I made a few people angry with my long tour of this particular Parisian toilet.
HOSTEL GUEST: Que fais-tu ici? (Translation: What are you doing in there?)
ME: Je suis malade! (Translation: I’m sick.)
HOSTEL GUEST: Are you American?
HOSTEL GUEST: Americain stupide… (Translation: Stupid American.)
ME: Stupides escargots francais! (Translation: Stupid French snails!)
HOSTEL GUEST: Haha! (Translation: Haha!)
He wasn’t the only one upset with me. The rest of the guests at the hostel gave me plenty of room to go along with their sneering attitudes. I decided I could get sick in an alley just as well as in the hostel shared bathroom so, after the fourth day, I took a walk.
I kept to the side streets and away from the crowds so I wouldn’t have to practice my limited French apologizing to whomever I chose to throw up near. I felt very light-headed and weak as I wandered along deliriously on the clean (sarcasm intended) side streets of Paris. Looking around at some of the filth, I couldn’t see my vomit as being anything out of the ordinary should I decide to do that in the middle of the street.
I must’ve walked about six blocks when I saw some graffiti on an alley wall. It said, “Jim, this way,” with an arrow pointing left. Even though I’m not named “Jim,” I decided to follow the graffiti. A few blocks later, the graffiti was repeated and I kept following. In my delirious state, it never occurred to me that I could get lost, but since I have a compass in my head, I didn’t think about it anyway.
After what felt like miles, I finally saw the last bit of graffiti pointing straight ahead. I followed the direction it gave me and entered a cemetery. I kept going and saw a couple people putting bottles of wine down near a stone that was surrounded by flowers, letters, drug paraphernalia, and bottles of alcohol. I looked closer and saw the inscription on the stone. It was Jim Morrison’s grave. Being weak and tired, I sat down nearby for a rest.
I rested for nearly an hour and watched the people come and go. I watched one guy come close, look around, then he took the bottles of wine that had just been put there an hour earlier. He suddenly noticed me as he was leaving, gave me a smile, and wandered off. I realized that he was the only Parisian that gave me a smile in the past couple days. I guess he didn’t care how sick I looked and only cared about getting away with the wine.
After I was rested, I made my way back to the hostel. I only found myself momentarily lost once, but recovered nicely. I went into the hostel and found a small bucket near my door. Attached was a note written in English.
The note said, “Use this when you sick. Stay out les toilettes!”
I felt a little irritated. In one sense, I couldn’t blame them. I really had spent a lot of time in the bathroom the past few days. On the other hand, I kept picturing the rude guy who called me stupid. I knew which room he was in so I added my own note to the bucket and placed it in front of his door.
My note said, “Use this when you can’t get into the toilet. I hope your ass gets stuck.”
I left a day later without seeing that guy again. For all I know, he had already checked out.
I can honestly say I saw parts of Paris that most Americans don’t see, which made it a little special. Mostly, however, all I mainly saw was the shared toilet in the hostel, which pretty much sums up how my trip was to Paris.