With the train screeching into the station, my two travel friends and I wiped the sleep from our eyes and unsteadily shuffled towards the exit doors. Stepping down onto the platform, I read aloud, “Annecy” which was written in several locations of the station. Yes! A calmness rushed through me because our two-hour train ride had brought us to our correct location. Being the navigator, I had succeeded in guiding us correctly through our journey. There was always a little part of me which was unsure that I was going the correct way, but I did not dare let my friends see my doubts. I couldn’t reveal my feelings or else their trust in my guidance would have waived. With them still following me, I led us towards the town of Annecy, France.
Halfway through our stroll to town, my bladder screamed for relief. I headed to the nearest restroom which sat in the grass of a park along the bank of Lake Annecy.
“Ugh!” I thought, “How long have I been standing in this line? My bladder is about to explode! I should have never drunk those two bottles of water so quickly on the train ride here. Is there anyone even on the toilet or have I been standing here like a bouncing idiot waiting for an imaginative person to walk through the doors? Yep, the little sign above the lock still says ‘occupied’.” I bounced a couple more times and glanced around anxiously. Seeing a person walk up behind me to also wait in line, I decided to check the door for real. I reached forward and pulled the door. BAM! The door stuck closed and a voice echoed from behind it. I couldn’t make out the muffled words, and I didn’t strain to listen. I saved myself the effort of listening carefully because I wouldn’t understand what the person was saying. I was in a foreign country, so it was possible they were speaking French, the native language of my location.
Finally, someone emerged from the porta potty. In a hurry, I grabbed the swinging door before it closed. I slipped in through the entrance anxious to relieve my overly full bladder. The lights went out. “What’s going on!” I exclaimed to myself. I heard whirring noises in response. Once my vision adjusted to the lack of light, I saw that the toilet seat had lowered itself against the wall. All the while, I was baffled. The bathroom had its own mind! Hearing a click from the floor, I looked down and saw that four, little knobs emerged from each corner. Tilting my head in curiosity not knowing what to expect next, the spigots began spraying water everywhere. Frantic to escape the water and keep my shoes dry, I pressed my back against one corner. I straddled one spigot while standing on my tiptoes to elevate myself from the flowing water. The spraying continued for a few moments, but it finally stopped. The corner knobs retreated and became flush with the floor again. The toilet seat raised itself to the proper position with a mechanical noise and clicked in position. With the ceasing of automatic noises, I knew that the session of unexpected events had quit. Strangely, the lights hadn’t turned back on. So, I opened the door an inch and closed it again. Violà! The lights illuminated themselves, and to my surprise the whole bathroom was spotless.
The fiasco for which I endured was the bathroom cleaning itself. Wow! I never imagined that I’d be locked in a park restroom to witness its self-sanitizing capabilities. Having relieved my screaming bladder, which I had forgotten about with all the excitement, I exited the bathroom and ran to my friends. Still jittery with adrenaline from the prior event, I rapidly expressed my experience with the toilet. Astonishment showed upon their faces with dropped jaws and widened eyes.
If you visit the beautiful town of Annecy, France, beware not of the sirens that lurk in the depths of Lake Annecy but of the autonomous porta potties.