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So what is a newyorksubalien...

I’m a New York subalien. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly legal – it’s just my loving other half, official alien that he is, comes with a so-called “supermodel” visa that apparently denotes him as one possessing extraordinary abilities (falling asleep within 5 minutes of sitting down in front of the TV, remembering only 2 of the 3 items on a mental shopping list and not knowing where the dishwasher tablets live after 2 years in our apartment are just some of his many talents).

The same visa leaves me extraordinarily unable to possess that most American of entities - a “social” i.e. a Social Security Number. Calling it a “social” makes it sound like the password to some party-filled, fun-packed lifestyle. That’s not far wrong as without these all-important 9 numbers, you pretty much can’t have a lifestyle at all - no bank account, no credit card, not even a driver’s license.

So what does a subalien do? Well, like over sub life forms waiting for evolution to give them a leg up on the ladder of existence, I have plenty of time to observe and these, dear reader, are my observations…..

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Getting down to basics - toilet paper heaven and public inconveniences

I was standing in my local supermarket this morning in front of a wall of choices – of toilet paper. 

Friends from France will know this is a particular pet subject of mine. When living in Paris, I was intrigued by the apparent French addiction to pink toilet roll. I would frequently spot elegant young Parisiens  with their impeccably-cut suits sauntering home carrying their Au Bon Marché food hall bags – and a giant 12-pack of pink toilet rolls.

Now I have absolutely nothing against coloured toilet roll. Coming from a country described as having 40 shades of green, I can verify we also in the toilet roll department favour 40 shades of orange. Thinking about it, I wonder if that is our just our old "cultural" differences coming out again. I don’t even mind the occasional pink roll, as all-inclusive as I am. But only pink?  I once had to write an apologetic note to friends who lent us their summer house in the country only to return to pink-festooned bathrooms after I failed to find any other colour in not one but three supermarkets in the local town.

One possible solution to the mystery was put forward by a friend who knows his toilet paper market well. His explanation was that the French government apparently stated the colour pink in its contract for the provisioning of “papier hygiénique” to all its offices. With so many very civil servants in the country, Frenchmen and women became so used to the colourful addition to the smallest room in the workplace that it is now the default hue for the loo "chez nous". Yet another example of how life in France is really "la vie en rose".  

On our new home planet, the locals see things more our way so that’s all white (sorry). In fact whiter than white, thicker than thick and softer than soft.  We have the option of special weaves for "a clean that you will notice", "ultra plush" tissues for those who want just that little bit more tender loving care and mega rolls with a guaranteed "roll fit guarantee"  to save us having to exhaust ourselves by changing the rolls so often.

And believe me, we do get through the toilet rolls because there is one very inconvenient aspect of Big Apple – the scarcity of public conveniences. As a result, at the end of every outing, the race for the bathroom as we open the door to our apartment has become a much-cherished family ritual.  

You know it’s an issue when you subconsciously start to register those stores that have public restrooms. Of course there is the obvious solution – that all-American coffee chain, where the lines outside the toilets can be as lengthy if not lengthier than those by the food counter. And may I just offer a sincere word of thanks to said coffee chain for turning a blind eye to those wishing to spend a penny rather than a dime as opposed to those establishments with the “Restrooms strictly reserved for customers” signs in the windows. They always lose my business – the dollar-paying kind, that is.

It doesn’t help that those department stores, large electrical shops and book chains that do host a restroom have them tucked away in some far-off corner with no signs. The easiest way to find them is to follow the worried-looking mums with the jigging children – they seem to have a sixth sense for this sort of thing.

I’ve sadly only just discovered that a leading maker of toilet paper even set up its own restrooms in Times Square during the recent holiday period so that visitors could “Enjoy the Go” in New York City. These splendid establishments apparently were complete with people dressed up as toilets and, this being America, your choice of three different types of loo paper.

Can’t wait to use them next Christmas  – literally.

Creative Commons License by Caroline Eagles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.