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One of the things I miss in London is a certain French pragmatism. Today, I had, once again, a stark reminder of this and for the first time in a long, long time, I missed France.

As part of my job, I have to visit factories and depots in and around London. After one of these visits, which lasted quite some time, I felt the need to go to the ladies. As much as, sometimes, I pretend that I am a mysterious creature, full of charm and wit, I still need to go to the loo. After all, I am only human.

I saw the sign to the ladies, excused myself, went along the dark corridor of the industrial building and eventually try to open the door. Nope. I needed a code. A code! I tried to find fellow female workers but there were none. Only men. I still needed the loo. Bracing myself, I went to see my (male, of course) host and causally asked whether he knew what the code for the ladies was. He looked at me in a funny way and explained that no, he didn’t, and that was the whole point. Apparently, the (very few) ladies working in this unit had complained that their toilets were dirty because, they believed, men were using them. As a result, a programme called “dignity at work” had been launched (you have to admire the Brits for finding such names just to put locks and codes to enter the female loos and keep them clean) and here I was, not able to go to the toilet because of the dignity of some happy few.
I thanked my host with a dignified smile and a now furious need to excuse myself (the explanation was a bit long winded and I had to pretend that I was interested. It is all about good manners here). I managed to find the gents, hoping that they would be empty. They were. I locked myself in one of the cubicles and suddenly felt better. But my relief was short-lived: two guys entered the lavatories and used the urinals. I couldn’t get out. I was mortified. I didn’t move or breathe. I just waited. Eventually, they left. Sigh of relief. But when I opened the door to go back to the corridor, another male worker was on the verge of entering the loo. He looked at me in a funny way. I thought that he was about to say something, so I took immediate action: to avoid an embarrassing explanation, I managed a huge smile and quickly clicked my high heels. It did the trick. He didn’t say anything. To be fair, I ignored his pale attempt of an “excuse me…”
The French way of dealing with this issue would have been to put signs to keep the ladies nice and clean, or to name and shame the men who would have dared entering the ladies.
In this instance, you have got to love the French.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • Well, that makes for a long day!

  • @Thom- I know, I am still traumatised…

  • That’s an interesting adventure though, don’t you think? I remember in college one of my good (male) friends brought me to the men’s room, just to show me…I was curious, how could I decline? It felt great, like being given an exclusive pass or venturing into some forbidden territory :-))

  • @Joy interesting story! And what did you two do in there? Lol!

  • Really? And the British taught us the importance of clean toilets (for about 100 years!)!

  • @Hajra I am sure that the ladies were clean. Shame I couldn’t get in!

  • You’re hilarious! This is such a funny post, though I’m sorry about the incident. When I have to go, I have to go and can’t wait!!!!!! I would go just about anywhere so I feel the pain on that one.
    But well written. Very funny.

  • @Stacey -thks. I am glad that you feel my pain!

  • How abysmal for you! I would have been so embarrassed to use a men’s washroom and have made quite the scene about why the women’s washroom code wasn’t available. Surely it defeats the whole purpose if you can’t even use the washroom? In America you would sue for a million dollars for personal distress!

  • You need to come to Australia, I have been to public events where there weren’t enough toilets for the women and they commandeered one of the men’s! (OK so that was a long time ago but it certainly did happen.) Plus we always talk about taking over the Mens because there’s such a long queue for the Ladies . . . while we queue.
    Josie x

  • You are so funny. I will say that the ladies room at my place of employment is always clean as it is also used by the guests of the hotel. I have used the mens room once or twice at clubs or sporting events because the ladies room line is always so long! Thanks for the laugh.

  • I thought you looked a bit flush when I met you.

  • Brilliant story! And bravo you for braving the men’s loos. Hilarious.

  • Haha! Oh, my! Glad you survived that adventure! 😀

  • Good story, what a day, glad you made it home!


  • Funny story that many of us can relate to. I’m glad you showed some French bravura. However, that’s not just the Brits. It happens in the U.S. as well. A couple of times I’ve almost come a-cropper while waiting for a key.

  • A click of high heels will do it every time – ha ha

  • @Elizabeth – thks for your support. Maybe I should sue?
    @Josie – at least you were not on your own…surely it is easier to go “en force”
    @ Jennifer – I am glad not to be the only one…
    @DC- I am fine, absolutely
    @Accidental Londoner – so tell me: have you had to do it too?

  • @Sam – I think I am oK…now
    @Claireteaparty – it wasn’t easy
    @Penelope – time for you to be more French!!!
    @Maureen – high heels are my secret weapon!

  • LOVE that you went to u se the men’s room instead. We have to do what we have to do especially when you really have to go! HA

  • Haha!! =) Hilarious!! That experience sounds slightly traumatizing and I was on the verge of an “EEK!” the whole way through. =P Love your writing, Mu! =)

  • Hahaha…years ago, I worked in an unfinished building, and had to share the men’s room (temporarily) with the guys. There were so few of us there, it was rarely a problem. But one day, I was in a stall when two men – two of the construction workers – walked in to use the urinals. I was trapped! I waited until they sounded done, but then they stood there talking. I had to call out, “Everybody decent?” at which point one of them laughed and said, “Depends on what you mean by ‘decent.'”

    “Doesn’t matter to me, but I have work to do and I’m coming out of this stall in five seconds. Four. Three. Two. One.” And out I went. They all gave me the look – trying to see if they could make me blush, I think.

    Later, my dad (who worked downtown for the same company) said, “I hear you scared a couple of painters in the bathroom this morning.” Huh?

    Turns out, one of the women working for him was dating one of the painters, and word had traveled fast. Some joke, huh? ::rolling eyes::