France: Age

of Discomfort

The modern world inevitably got around to attacking the most comforting, if not the most beautiful, of Parisian landmarks: the public urinals, known as vespasiann (after Emperor Vespasian. A.D. 9-79. who established a tax on such establishments, and when criticized for his source of revenue, replied: "Money has no smell."). In an earlier day. the vespasiennes were a mark of social progress for a neighborhood and a token of masculine democracy. They have also become a quaint sight for tourists and a source of endless jokes. Last week, as the Paris municipal council debated their continuance, the pissoirs...