I’m back from a wonderful weekend in Paris, but before I tell you about that, my latest toilet-related crisis needs your full attention.
As you’ll remember, my electric toilet stopped working on Tuesday. On Thursday, my landlord, Quentin, had called over to fix it while I was at work. He’d failed to fix it, but had clearly made a bit of a mess as he’d had to put his clothes in the washing machine and have a shower.
He was due to have someone come in and install a new toilet motor while I visited Paris this weekend.
I arrived home this afternoon, delighted to see a new toilet-engine in place and after a few visits to the little room, where I gingerly did a few experimental flushes, I decided it was time to try it out. It works! Fantastic.
However, a new toilet wasn’t the only thing waiting for me when I got home. Once again, Quentin had used my washing machine and yet again there was a pile of sopping garments in the machine. Odd.
Just like I had done on Thursday evening, I transferred Quentin’s clothes to the tumble dryer, a little frustrated because it made the space feel less my own.
As I transferred the clothes to the dryer, I noticed something very odd indeed. They were exactly the same clothes I had put in the dryer on Thursday evening: a light blue t-shirt, cream 3/4 length trousers, a pair of white socks and jocks, two towels and two floor cloths.
Was it possible that Quentin had got soaked by this temperamental toilet twice in the space of 4 days while wearing the exact same clothes?
Or had I caused him some great offence by transferring his clothes to my tumble dryer? Was it an invasion of privacy? Was he making a point?
Did he think I was dirty and had sullied his clothes the first time I had put them to dry, necessitating a second wash?
I worried that I was going to spend my last week in France in a Groundhog Day scenario, whereby every evening I’d dry the same clothes of Quentin’s only to find them in the washing machine again the next evening.
After a few hours at home, I headed out to go to the local petrol station and buy milk. As I had the key in the outside of my apartment door, ready to lock it, when I heard my doorbell go off.
It had to be Quentin. My boss isn’t in town and she was the only other person with my address.
From previous experience, I knew I didn’t know how to work the intercom so there was no point in going back inside to answer the door.
I never know what to say on intercoms anyway. It’s only one of a number of social situations where I’ve no idea what to say. It’s like when I go into an internet cafe I don’t know what one is meant to say and I usually end up pointing at a computer while raising my eyebrows, because “Can I have the internet please?” sounds silly. Likewise, when I was in Poland, the first time I went to the barber’s I learnt the word for “haircut” in advance. This meant I was able to say, “A haircut, please” to the barber, but I hadn’t a clue how to say “long”, “short”, “back” or “sides”.
So, I stood stock still outside my apartment, knowing that there was no point trying to answer the intercom as I wouldn’t know what to say and it didn’t work anyway.
After about 30 seconds, I heard the lift start shuddering on the ground floor. Quentin was on his way.
What should I do? I couldn’t go back inside, because then I’d have to tell him why I didn’t answer the intercom. What if it didn’t work because I had broken it?
I could wait in the corridor.
Would he recognise me? Or would I have to introduce myself? Does he know my name? I could ask if he was Quentin, but I knew that my pronunciation of his name was so far from how it’s supposed to be said that I may be rendering it incomprehensible to its very owner.
Maybe it would be obvious to us who the other was. I’d stick out my hand and say, “so you’re the 21-year-old who’s decorated his apartment with photos of children from the 1980s”. But then he could say ” you’re the guy whose fecal matter broke my toilet which then exploded all over me causing me to have to wash my clothes TWICE.”
Or maybe he couldn’t speak English. He had left a note for me in English, but it could have been translated by a friend. I had visions of us gesturing to each other about the optimal use of the toilet. Not a realistic choice.
There was only one option. As the lift clambered up to the fourth floor, I made a desperate run for it. I made it to the stairs just as the lift doors were opening. Phew!
As soon as I got out onto the street I felt ridiculous. But I couldn’t go back now.
I spent an hour and a half roaming the streets of Strasbourg, writing the start of this blogpost, before I screwed up the courage to return.
Quentin had been. He’d taken away the old toilet motor. But his clothes are still in the tumble dryer so I don’t think I’ve seen the last of him.
I’ll update about Paris and about running soon, but I’ll leave you all in the same state of suspense I’m in, wondering if Quentin will come back for his clothes. And what, if anything, Connor will say to him if he does. Oh, good lord!