Free Quirk No.17 ~ "Permission to Pee"


"Permission to Pee"

There was a time, in this gloriously refined city of ours which is Paris, when gentlemen would quite legitimately... how can I put this... relieve themselves in the middle of the street.

And you can imagine the charming aroma which would surround these little green vestibules as you wandered along the Parisian streets on a bright spring morning. Lovely.

Here you are looking at what is sadly the last of these peeing emporiums, and a lovely example it is too.

It's funny to wax lyrical about what is, in fact, just an outmoded, smelly and rather repugnant open-air toilet, in the same hushed tones as we do of the most glorious examples of Guimard's art nouveau metro entrances, but for me these Vespiennes are right up there with them.

I don't think I've ever protested about anything in my life, not officially anyway, but if there were plans to dig this thing up I think I'd be down there with a fist and a full bladder to hammer my point home. This must never disappear from the Paris streets. We're staring at the history and the fabric of the city and I recommend you go and have a look the first time you're in the area...

"I'm one of those guys who skulks around
men's public toilets with a camera
and a dirty raincoat (if it's raining)..."

Is it a coincidence that it's right outside Paris' sinister Maison d'arrêt de la Santé prison? I think not. The boulevard Arago is hardly one of the main tourist axes of the city, and there's hardly ever anyone in the street; people don't seem to get out much in those parts...

Judging by the number of times I've seen it in use when I've skulked by with my camera (yep, I'm one of those guys - give me a wide berth if you see me...), it still has a loyal clientele who wouldn't be too pleased to see it go either.

If I may sing the Vespienne's praises for a moment, just think about it: it's free, it's never 'out of order' (although sometimes occupied, but see below), it has two independent booths, it's open air, you have a pleasant view through those little holes and you never have to cross your legs during an interminable new-fangled 'wash cycle', of all things.

The Vespienne is also resolutely sociable - you can chat to your fellow pee-er before, during and after. Not to mention the fact that it's open all hours - far more and practical than today's sanitised, characterless peepods which shut up shop just around the time you're heading home and forgot to go in the pub.

And not least of course, we impatient guys don't have to hop around like idiots waiting for the nose-powdering, hair-fluffing faction to do their thing because it's proudly, unashamedly and uprightly... MEN ONLY! Well, a woman could, if she really wanted to, I suppose...

The downside aspects are probably not suitable for a family show but suffice it to say that there's still one of these things, in just about working order, it gets a lick of paint every now and then, and it's one of a kind.

Nearby attractions include, as I mentioned, the menacing Paris prison and a couple of blocks away the fabled Sainte-Anne's hospital for people with mental problems. I'll be treating you to an exceptional curiosity relating to one of these in six days' time in Paris Quirk No.19 if you're still with me - don't miss it, it's a goodie!


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