(Muddy Aligators, John Singer Sargent, 1917, Art Renewel.com)
I just learned that the Bobster and I could have toured the sewers of Vienna for a measly ten bucks each when we were there a few weeks ago.
Instead, we wasted a nice big chunk of our precious Vienna time checking out Sissi's above-the-ground bathroom facilities at the Hofburg Palace.
I am bummed to the max!!!
Let's face it, there's probably no one on this earth who loves discussing toilets, plumbing and sewer systems as much as I do.
I feel cheated.
And I am blaming the WSJ.
On the front page of the May 18th edition, the casual reader will find this headline:
"IT'S FLUSH TIMES FOR THE DARKEST STOP ON THE
GRAND TOUR - EUROPE'S SEWERS"
I have just one critical question for you esteemed writers at the WSJ:
Was it too much trouble for you to check MY Vienna itinerary in a timely manner BEFORE you decided to publish this informative piece on a date that was completely useless to me?
I think we already know the answer to that question, don't we?
As anyone who has read as little as two pages from any decent self-help book knows, when a person refuses to forgive, he is actually hurting himself.
So let me be perfectly clear on this point.
I simply can't afford to add another nano-second of misery to own life.
Therefore, it is with the deepest humility I announce to one and all that I HAVE ALREADY FORGIVEN THE WSJ!
Which is a good thing.
Because I intend to point my Nike's in the direction of Vienna's "subterranean waterways" the very next time I visit that beautifully Baroque city.
Obviously, I have the WSJ to thank for blasting knowledge of Vienna's sewer tours around the world.
And the truth must be told, I have a certain son-in-law - who shall remain nameless - to thank for giving me a heads up on the WSJ article.
So here's the deal.
Sewer touring is a huge hit all over Europe.
According to the WSJ, in 2007, a local chamber of commerce in Brighton, England voted the city's sewers the "Best Place to Visit."
Brighton's sewers beat out the Duke of York's Picturehouse, one of Britain's oldest cinemas, in that contest.
Not to be out done by the Brits, in 2007, Brussels renovated its sewer museum "whose exterior resembles a Greek temple."
My stars and garters!
A sewer museum that looks like a Greek temple?
I'm already there!
Oh, and by the way, visitors to the Brussels underground can "stroll at their leisure unaccompanied by sewer guides."
As far as I'm concerned, that definitely dribbles the icing on top of that cake!
I can imagine that there is nothing more annoying than a pesky tour guide yapping in your ear when you're trying to have a special moment by yourself in the sewers.
And the next time you're in Paris?
Make a bee line for the Musee des Egouts which is planning a "makeover to handle rising tourist traffic, which surpasses 100,000 visitors a year."
Sewer museum officials in Paris, "plan to expand their exhibits to include topics such as water treatment (yawn), safety equipment (stretch)" and the ever popular......
Now we're talkin'!
The following is a direct quote from the WSJ:
"One display in the spacious sewer tunnels celebrates notable items retrieved, including swords, stolen handbags and false teeth. Another commemorates Eleanor, a 32-inch alligator, whom workers caught in 1984 and who now lives in a Paris zoo."
Say you're ticked off at your neighbor who lives across the street.
He's let his lawn grow far too long.
You decide to hurry up his decision to mow by going over and tickling his ribs with a few friendly sword jabs.
But just before you reach his property line you think better of it.
So you ditch your sword in the sewer opening just beneath his curb.
That explains the sword in the sewer phenomenon.
Now, what about the flushed purse?
If you don't over think it, that makes some sense.
Especially if the thief (pre-flush) has enough brains to remove useful items such as cash, credit cards and the "get the 10th serving free" punch card from your - now his - favorite ice cream shop.
But discovering false teeth in the sewer?
I ain't buyin' that one!
Who in his or her right mind would voluntarily stand over an open commode and insert or remove his or her false teeth?
ABSOLUTELY NO ONE!
I know that snakes have been known to enjoy a whirlpool bath in the occasional commode bowl.
So it's not a big stretch of the imagination to realize that Eleanor The Alligator likes to do her spa thing in the sewers as well.
That girl's gotta keep her hide hidden, supple and moisturized or she can forget enjoying a leisurely old age at the Paris zoo.
She will, instead, meet an untimely death and morph into some rich bitty's over-priced handbag.
Hey, it's gotta be said that curators of sewer museums face special challenges.
From the WSJ:
"Constant moisture and noxious chemicals ruin displays. Heavy rains flood galleries. Deadly and explosive gasses can build up, forcing hasty evacuations."
So far........so good.
I'm still in it for the long haul.
But then this sentence appears at the end of the paragraph:
"RATS RUN RAMPANT."
I can say without a shadow of a doubt......
that it will only take one rampant running rat to persuade Miss Merry to jump sky high onto the next available sewer barge.
Again, from the WSJ: Tours of Parisian sewers began in 1867 when workers "clad in white guided visitors aboard special tour barges and wagons."
"It was very chic," says Marie-Christine Amable. "We had beautiful sewers."
But then toilet waste arrived in 1894.
Not to worry.
The rides continued for another 80 vomitive years.
Here's a question for all my female readers:
Do you remember the exact location where Mr. Wonderful proposed to you?
I thought I did until a few days ago.
The Bobster kindly informed me that it was in his car up by the white "Y" at BYU.
So much for my sweet memories of saying "yes" by Utah Lake in Provo.
Carolyn Payne won't have any trouble remembering her proposal.
Steve Sparks asked Ms. Payne to marry him in the Brighton sewer last May.
Mr. Sparks says, "I was a little nervous about losing the ring. I believe that since the sewers were built in 1870, nobody has proposed in them. I wanted to make the moment unusual."
I think we can all agree that he achieved his goal.
Carolyn Payne Sparks enlightens us further:
"It's really quite beautiful and cathedral-like down there. But it does still smell."
The WSJ says that Steve is already looking forward to touring other cities' sanitary works.
"Paris sounds particularly romantic," he says wistfully.
"Maybe we'll tour the sewers of Paris for our first anniversary."
I like the way this guy thinks.
Bob, on the other hand, enjoys telling me that we have seen everything there is to see in Paris and then some.
Not so fast, mister.
I've already got the Musee des Egouts on speed dial.