Haiku reviews of public bathrooms: Paris McDonalds

Welcome to series in which I review public bathrooms in haiku form. In this entry I visit a McDonalds in Paris. It should probably come with some sort of reader discretionary warning. Or, if you’d prefer to use more modern vernacular, “tmi, girlfriend”.

Despite where my review ends up, I would definitely return. Beer costs the same as coke!

Despite where my review ends up, I would definitely return. Beer costs the same as coke!

Paris train station:
If you want friendly faces
Not the place to go.

At the Info Desk
“English? I speak a leetle”
Ending with a sigh.

Half an hour passed
Of queuing then gesturing
With garbled requests.

Our tickets to Bruges
Selected, booked and paid for
Safe in my pocket.

But to get them cheap
Our journey was fragmented
Not starting ‘til two.

It was eleven
And with three hours to kill
We went to Maccas.

(Yes, “eat local food”
But after a week in France
I had had enough.)

We sat in a booth
Nursing coffees for hours
Leeching free wifi.

Mid Facebook browsing
Nature called, as nature does
I made haste downstairs.

In the summer heat …
… with a fifteen kg pack …
… with recent weight gain …

… with too tight jeans on …
… after eating McDonalds …
… I did not feel good.

This bathroom helped none:
Paper towels littered the floor
Inhuman odours.

A stall’s door ajar
Indicating vacancy
Beckoned towards me.

I grimly sat down
Trying to avoid thinking
Of words such as “stain”…

… or “smear” or “puddle”…
… “communicable disease”…
… “sick” and “infection”.

Eager to escape
I reached for the toilet roll
To end this visit.

Too late I realised
I’d forgotten the first rule
Of public bathrooms.

Before you sit down
Nay – before you unbuckle
Check paper is there.

‘Twas six long hours
‘Til our hostel check-in time
‘Til I could shower.

Employing girl tricks
I called meekly to neighbours
But no reply came.

I checked my pockets
Hoping for a backup plan
A napkin, perhaps?

But I was thwarted
By my own efficiency
All pockets were bare.

My options all out
I resorted to cardboard
The paper’s friend – tube.

Not a sensation
I would enjoy repeating
(Unyielding and tough.)

Call me uncultured
But I feel like this bathroom
Summed up “Paris, France”.

Fiji Travel Journal Part Two: Airports, Adoption and the Kindness of Strangers

Catch up with ‘Part One: Donuts, Margaritas and Waistcoats’ here!

Thursday 20 September

I wake up. Head fuzzy. Where am I? It’s dark. Ohmygod. There’s a woman. Right there. She’s tall. Thin and tall. She’s staring at me. Watching me sleep.

Seriously, where am I?! Who is this stranger?! Is she going to kill me?! What should I say?! Do I clear my throat and say, like, good morning?! Do I just go back to sleep and pretend this never happened?!

Foolproof solution.

Foolproof solution.

Oh. Ok. Nevermind. There is no woman there. It’s just the bed post.

Ok. Go back to sleep.

**

When I wake up properly, hours later, I’m annoyed by my instincts. When you think a stranger is sitting on your bed watching you sleep, your gut reaction should not be to fret about how best to introduce yourself. I should have leapt out of bed to protect my loved ones. What if Annie had shaken me awake in the morning to announce we’d been robbed? What would I have said? “Oh, yeah, I saw her, but felt a bit awkward about saying hello, so I went back to sleep”.

This thought preoccupies me for most of the drive to the airport.

When we arrive at Auckland International, Annie is fine to make our way leisurely from food court to customs to departure lounge, but for some reason this casual approach panics me. I prefer to rush through as quickly as possible so I can sit in the departure lounge for hours, bored, finishing my book and draining my iPhone battery before we’re even on the plane.

We compromise: I check the departures screen every ten seconds and sit on my hands out of twitchiness and Annie pretends not to mind when I watch her like a hawk, waiting to say, “so, looks like you’re about done with that drink/book/toilet, shall we make a move?”

I’m disappointed that the international terminal doesn’t have a donut shop, but make do with McDonalds. Once again, the McMuffin is better in theory than in practice, looking like someone may have sat on it before handing it over. The hotcakes though, my goodness. Little knobs of melted butter and an entire packet of syrup (just ‘syrup’—no ‘maple’ or similar adjective to denote its origins) on warm fluffy wheels. I am thrilled.

No, not as thrilled as the day before. Memmmmmories... of my donut from Wens'day...

No, not as thrilled as the day before. Memmmmmories… of my donut from Wens’day…

After our breakfast, we decide to have a drink. It’s barely 9am and so the cafe is filled with customers picking at breakfast croissants and sipping flat whites. Annie bowls up to the bar and orders a Jamaican Dream cocktail. The waitress stares back at her for a moment, before asking, “a what?”

“A Jamaican Dream”, Annie repeats, gesturing towards the cocktail menu.

The waitress picks up the menu and looks at it, perhaps hoping that if the request is delivered through a different medium it will make more sense. I don’t think it works. She awkwardly fidgets with her necklace and looks around for help.

“Um, I just make the coffees?” she says, anxiety woven into her eyebrows. “And Linda’s on break. Um… I could go get her?”

Annie looks like she’s seriously considering this request. I think about how long it might take to go find Linda then bring Linda back then wait for Linda to figure out how to make a Jamaican Dream then for Linda to put it on a little coaster and bring it over. In my mind I hear bing bong, passengers Kate and Annie, your flight has left without you, bet that cocktail wasn’t worth it, sucks to be you guys, bing bong. I convince Annie she should just get a beer.

After our breakfast beers, we stand in duty free spritzing ourselves with perfumes, pretending to enjoy the feijoa vodka so we get a second free sample. I want a new camera but I don’t really want to spend any money, so we plod along the counters and I find arbitrary faults with everything, so I get to say well, at least I TRIED.

I’m still twitchy about missing our flight and only calm down when I’m actually in the plane, strapped into my seat, our bags stowed in the overhead cabin. Before we’ve even taken off, Annie turns to me and says, “wake me up when food comes” and then slides down in her chair to nap.

It takes three hours to fly from Auckland to Nadi, and I use this time to indulge in guilty pleasures, namely, watching What To Expect When You’re Expecting and drinking beer out of a plastic cup. One scene in the movie particularly bothers me. Jennifer Lopez picks up this little orphan kid, and looks at him devotedly, and I truly believe she wants him. It feels real, like Jenny herself is actually considering taking him back to her Block. It makes me wonder if I should adopt a kid too. This is disconcerting. If J Lo can tempt me into adoption, I really should be more careful around her L’Oreal ads. Sure, I might be worth it, but True Match foundation is definitely not in the budget.

Maybe I should just buy one little bottle, maybe just one...

Maybe I should just buy one little bottle, maybe just one…

We land and people impatiently fill the aisles again. I’m not bothered this time, because there are palm trees to look at, and the heavy humid heat has seemed to work its way into the plane, making me feel dopey. I stuff my winter coat into my bag, joking to Annie that I probably won’t need it. Moments later, I hear a man a few rows ahead say to his wife, “best put your jacket away love, won’t be needing that for a while!” I am so embarrassed. It makes me feel like the human race is really just a bunch of monkeys wandering around making the same jokes as each other, over and over, trying not to bump into things. I’m not sure if I find the thought comforting or depressing.

When we get inside the terminal we join an oppressively slow-moving queue to clear customs. The woman behind me is donating a box of second-hand books to local schools. I know this because I hear her announce it to two different people in the queue, both times in the form of an apology. They haven’t shown even vague interest in her or her parcel, yet she says sorry to them for carrying it. It reminds me of when I used to volunteer with the SPCA. Two days before a shift and two days after, everyone would know about it. “No, I’m so sorry, I’ll have to come to dinner late. I have my volunteeeeer work. With animals. Sick little abandoned animals. Which I look after, because I’m a volunteeeeeer.”

And yes, sometimes I DID use visual aids.

And yes, sometimes I DID use visual aids.

She is basically forcing me to feel guilty. Instead of books for children, I’m holding a bottle of duty free Malibu. Given that I see my own attention-seeking behaviour in this woman, I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to be irritated with her. This is sorted when this volunteeeeer “accidentally” smacks into me with her box of charity. I decide that maybe I’m allowed to hate her a little bit and I spend the rest of the queue hoping she drops her generosity on her stupid altruistic foot.

After finally getting through customs, getting through the bag check in Fiji turns out to be remarkably easy. In New Zealand they ask probing questions about your wood products and make you wonder if you ARE accidentally smuggling in cocaine, because why else would all of these people in uniforms they be this suspicious of you? In Fiji they lean back in their chair, welcome you to the country, and gesture casually to the exit.

Fiji! We’re finally here. We’re tipsy and sweaty and ready to go.

The morning after

Slowly, reality comes, seeping in the edges of the world. Ok. What’s going on? Who am I? Female. Kate. Yes. My mouth tastes like a sock. Do I want to open my eyes? Not really. Compromise, just one? Ok. Eyelid prised open. Is this my bed? Good. Am I alone? Thank god. Where is my phone? How do I make it show me – ok. I got it. It’s 9am. Looks light outside. Should I get up? Definitely not.

Five minutes pass. Memories fall back in. Oh god. Did I really say that? Hopefully not. Maybe that one specific part of the evening was just a dream. Yes. That sounds like it’s… possible? Good. Let’s stay wrapped in the cozy blanket of denial. And the literal blanket of my duvet.

Hungry. Ok, really hungry. The hungriest that any human being has ever been, ever. No. Come on Kate, you’re not like, proper starving. You ate six cupcakes and a bag of salt & vinegar chips only four hours ago, you can’t compare yourself to Ethiopian children.

Toast. Need toast. Need coffee. No, toast is too hard, and none of the mugs are clean. Need McDonalds. Shoes. Where are shoes? Should I wipe last night’s makeup off? Maybe just lick my finger and scrub at the smudge on my cheek? Ok. Fine. I guess it’s staying there.

**

“Yes, please can I please have the Kiwi Brekkie McMuffin? With a hash brown? And a caramel McFlurry? And also one of those iced coffee things with the whipped cream on it? I don’t know, just the biggest one you have. Thank you.”

The Kiwi Brekkie McMuffin: it looks how you feel.

The Kiwi Brekkie McMuffin: it looks how you feel.

**

Back at home. Couch. Fat pants. Jason Bourne. Geez, look at him running. He’s always running places, looking upset. I’m so glad I don’t have to be a spy. Is he a spy? I should pay more attention. I just need the energy to get my laptop. I should do something really productive today, like, I should write maybe ten blogs and queue them all up. And then figure out what to do with my life. Also, I should drink a whole lot of water, and eat lots of vegetables. If I do that it will make up for the McDonalds, and it would basically even out over the whole day to be nutritious.

I’ll just have a few glasses of vanilla coke first, then straight after that, I’ll definitely start on the water. I think by lunchtime I’m going to really feel like vegetables.

Laptop acquired. Scroll. Like. Retweet. Refresh. Like. Retweet. Refresh. Nothing happening. Open Spider Solitaire.

**

Bourne finished.

“Does anyone else want some Dominos?”

If people say yes, and you end up getting pizzas, it’s sort of their fault. It’s not like you’re the only one eating it. It’s peer pressure.

**

Wonder how it’s possible that you can eat an entire pizza and not really feel full. Probably just dehydrated. Maybe should just drink the coke out of the bottle instead of wasting time pouring it into a glass. Efficient.

Second Bourne movie. Not entirely sure what happened in the first one, because Spider Solitaire was too engrossing. He’s a spy? Amnesia?

Wait, do I still have that Snickers bar in my bag? Oh thank goodness. This is exactly what I need. I’m going to start eating healthily, straight after this Snickers bar.

“Are you making popcorn? Yeah, I’ll have some.”

“Oh, you have lollies? Yeah, I’ll have some.”

Figure if you just eat the yellow jelly ones no one else wants, it doesn’t count. If you’re not enjoying it, it can’t be bad for you.

**

Head starts feeling kind of wooshy. Like if you stood up too fast, you’d pass out. Consider going to sleep. Think sleep and water will be the best thing, right now. Decide instead to just sit very still instead and see if it goes away.

It goes away.

**

Second Bourne movie end credits. No idea what happened. Gave up trying to follow the plot. Too exhausting watching him run everywhere. Where is his energy coming from? Just sit down for a minute, Jason.

Unsure if he even LIKES sitting.

Unsure if he even LIKES sitting.

Still have not successfully completed a game of Spider Solitaire. However, have hit ‘like’ on everything that everyone has posted on Facebook in the past six hours. Now just hitting refresh waiting for last night’s pics to go up. F5 F5 F5. Jack goes on Queen goes on King. F5 F5 F5. No more available moves, start new game? F5 F5 F5.

**

Halfway through third Bourne movie. Wonder if peering up at it occasionally when there’s a loud noise counts as actually watching it.

Should probably have some honey toast. For the nutrition. Oh! Maybe some cereal! If I add some sugar it will feel like childhood, and it doesn’t even count if it’s only a teaspoon. Well, a teaspoon and a half. The fibre cancels it out, anyway.

Ugh. I feel rough. I’m definitely going to get an early night. Well, right after New Zealand’s Got Talent. Then maybe I’ll just watch a Community episode in bed. Just one? It counts as rest if you’re lying down, anyway. And I’ll just have one square of this swiss chocolate stuff. Just one square, as like, dessert.

Ok. I’m definitely having an early night and eating healthy. Definitely. Tomorrow.

Liz Lemon’s workout gives me a sense of deja vu

Liz Lemon eating a McDonalds caramel sundae on her treadmill is supposed to be funny.

Liz Lemon multitasks.

Liz Lemon multitasks.

I mean, it IS funny. I’m not disputing that. But when I saw this scene I was struck with a secondary emotion: that cringey embarrassed feeling of recognition. Because, here’s where we hit confession time:

I have literally ridden an exercycle while eating a bag of Burger Rings.

Little orange rings of heaven.

Little orange rings of heaven.

Why do we call these 'exercise bikes' when all bikes are for exercise?

Why do we call these ‘exercise bikes’ when all bikes are for exercise?

Obviously a bag of burger rings isn’t as big as an exercycle, but those image ratios are intentional. It should give you an impression of where my priorites lay at the time. Even though this event transpired probably ten years ago, I still remember eating those burger rings. Sliding one onto my index finger. Nibbling around the edge, so it looked like a car wheel without its tyre. Biting it in half, and half again. Finishing the bag then carefully ripping apart the seams to unfold it. Ending up with a single sheet of shiny plastic, little orange crumbs clinging to it with grease and fear. Sliding my tongue all over it until it was clean, like a dog cleaning its bowl (probably with the same amount of excess saliva).

Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure I kept riding.  I don’t know how fast I rode, or what brand the bike was, or how long I spent on the seat.  But I remember those burger rings.

Health is the vital principle of bliss, and exercise, of health.
– James Thomson