he might have been inspired to write a novella on the subject...
Carcassonne before its industrial estates.
I hate these places generally, wastelands of land-fill producing companies, (on the whole), the odd coffee van lurking on a corner if you are lucky, and miles of interconnected roads leading to nowhere that all look the same with often insufficient notice boards decreeing which companies are there, and where exactly.
Yesterday, armed with the name and address of a removal company which supplies cardboard boxes, tape and suchlike, I ventured forth to afore-mentioned warren of roads and spent an hour and a half driving slowly around and stopping, much to the annoyance of courier vans, to try and fathom where 'Gerard' removals was located.
My phone has recently been stolen or 'lost' in the post by Chronopost (another rant to be ranted) and the prehistoric iPhone we found in a drawer won't do much more than call and text, so, no map apps, and very hesitant search engines, AND, I'd forgotten to write down the firm's number. I swore a lot under the shade of a lone tree - that's another thing about these places, or this one, there are no trees anywhere - and phoned Mark to ask if he could look up the info on his phone. He did, but it was another Gerard in the middle of town, and nothing to do with removals, so I drove around a bit more then saw another removal company called 'Cabri' so went in to ask if they know the one called Gerard.
Interesting the psychology of certain French women in a slight power situation. She calmly and briskly informed me that Gerard and Cabri were the same thing. I duly said that I'd been driving around the estate, and not for taking in the beauty of it, and why wasn't there a sign, or a name anywhere to indicate the presence of Gerard (Cabri) removals, and why did it not say on the website that Cabri was the name one should look for. She deflected my comments by demanding what I wanted, and, since it was nearly lunchtime and I would be then thrown out and a whole morning would thus be wasted I forgot the Kafka stuff, told her what I required, paid and was given the pile of flat pack boxes and shown the stairs.
A certain satisfaction crept back; at least I had achieved this minor task, and could now enjoy a quick lunch with Mark in the town square, and more importantly empty my bladder as too much tea before setting out was starting to be an issue, and I wouldn't have dared to ask if I could use Cabri's loo.
I arrived in the square, we chose a cheap bistro, ordered and I said I'd just nip to the loo.
'It was not allowed, madame' stated the waiter. Covid rules. I said it was extremely urgent, and what did they do when they wanted a pee. He said it would be a penal offence if were to use the loo, they didn't have the right cleaning 'materials' and air hand dryers were forbidden. Crossing my legs more, I asked where the nearest public convenience was. He pointed to the corner of the square and I hobbled off. It was out of order. I asked a policeman. He said normally the ones at the other end of the square under the raised stage area would be available but not for some time to come as various events were being put on and the loos blocked off with scaffolding. I asked where else was there one and he looked blankly about before pointing in the direction of Barcelona. Maybe over there . . . somewhere. Meanwhile my plat du jour was going cold. I walked more swiftly about through various streets, begged in a few bars, nope, not possible, even if I bought and downed a shot of brandy, which by that time I was beginning to need.
I peered back into the square. Mark was looking slightly worried, and my lunch was sitting there getting more gelatinous by the second. I walked around further away into some tiny back streets, considered a doorway until I noticed somewhere watching me with interest from an upstairs window. Fountain in the square? Forget lunch and drive to a field?
How happy I would have been to find this beauty
In got back to the square and really began to feel a bit panicky.
Going to the loo in a café when you have ordered something is so utterly unthought about. It's just what you do. I've done it hundreds of times. It's the law for eating establishments: normally. But this is Covid time, and nothing is normal. Perhaps all these eateries shouldn't be open. Maybe all these waiters shouldn't be touching our plates without gloves on, or wearing their masks casually over one ear while discussing football with regulars. Maybe we should have been at home eating, but it was a special event. Mark has just left (desired to leave it) his job, and I had successfully not gone mad on an industrial estate.
In desperation I pushed open a very decrepit door in one of the square's buildings, went into a hallway hoping perhaps there might be a communal loo somewhere and then - crazed from bladder pressure and no food - went down a flight of stairs into a cellar which was full of old fridges and rotten wood. But no loo. I really had fallen into a worrying novel or that film 'After Hours' by Scorsese. Some old woman would appear and strangle me with half finished knitting or I would fall down a hole into a parallel time where all the loos would be open in the square but Mark and my lunch would never be found. So, anyway, I did pee, next to a pile of rotten wood and zipped back up the stairs praying no one would ask me what I was doing.
My lunch was cold but I don't think it was probably ever too wonderful. I ate then went to pay. The waiter did actually apologise and said he would ring the local council about the lack of public loos. I later wondered what all those other eighty or so people sitting drinking beers and cokes had done faced with the same situation. Od course, it is somewhat easier for blokes...