View Full Version : The B'day

December 29th, 2015, 07:39 AM
From Letters to the World, January,1970

On a cold day at the beginning of January, 1970, I was in a DC-8 headed for the Army's transfer station in Frankfurt, Germany. This was probably my fifth flight in an airplane and as I looked back down that long center aisle, it seemed impossible that anything so huge could actually fly. Every seat had a GI in it and, for some reason, the stewardesses spent as little time in that aisle as they could. There were also a couple of stewards and they seemed more relaxed and didn't move at a dead run the way their female colleagues did.

As we crossed over England, the pilot announced that the Rhine Main Airport was socked in by fog and that we were being diverted to the Cologne / Bonn Airport. It was late at night by the time we arrived there and, as there was no land transport available to take us to Frankfurt, we were put up in hotels in the city of Bonn. I was with the busload that was given rooms in the Steigenburger Hotel.

My room had a pair of beds, so I was assigned a roommate. That was no problem; that was practically solitude. By that time, I was used to having 31 roommates. We each chose a bed and began getting settled for the night. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. I answered it and the visitor was another GI. He asked for me. He wanted me to come with him to another room down the hall. He said there were some guys down there who knew I had been to college and they wanted to ask me about something. I told him to ask me their question and, if I knew the answer, I would tell him and he could tell the guys down the hall. He said that wouldn't work. They wanted to show me something and then ask questions about it. I thought this was a pretty strange request, but this guy practically begged me to go with him. So I made sure that both guys watched as I took my watch and wallet and stuffed them way down inside my duffel bag. Then I closed the bag, snapped my lock in the hasp and said, "Let's go."

My guide escorted me to a room that looked very much like my own, except that there were five guys standing around in the bathroom. I said, "I'm Mark. What can I do for you?"

One of the guys seemed to be the spokesman. He said, "We know you been to college, so you probably can tell us what that thing is." He pointed to a certain porcelain fixture on the floor next to the toilet.

I said, "Oh. That is a bidet."

"A what? A b'day?"

"B-I-D-E-T", I said. "It is a French word, is why it's pronounced funny. I don't know this, but the thing is probably a French invention. Is that all you wanted?" I turned to leave.

"Wait! What is it for? Jim says it could be some kind of footbath, but that don't seem right, somehow."

I said with some asperity, "What the hell does it look like it's for?"

He said, "Well, it looks like a toilet, but it has a drain like a sink. Can't take no dump in that."

I said, "No, you can't. You are thinking along the right lines, but you haven't gone quite far enough with it." And then I told them what it was for. I explained it in one-syllable words of four letters each and when I was finished, they stared open-mouthed at that outlandish porcelain contraption, trying to imagine someone using it. Soon, eyes began to turn toward the heavens and I heard someone say, "Ask a college boy a simple question and he don't even have to blink his eyes afore he hands you a ration of s___ like that."

I didn't feel like arguing, so I said, "Well, I should have known you guys would be too smart to swallow a lie that big. Actually, Jim was right. It is a footbath. The chair against the wall there is the key. You place the chair between the bidet and the toilet. You sit down and turn on the water so the fountain squirts up in the air and then you put your feet in and let that little geyser play along the soles and in between your tired tootsies. Then you kick the drain closed and dump in some of the bath salts from that jar on the counter and it is ever so warm and relaxing. Then, you don't even have to get up. You just swing your feet around, put them in the toilet and flush a couple of times for a nice, cool rinse."

I left them in slack-jawed contemplation of the "Petrified Truth" and returned to my room.

Abstractor of the Quintessence
Order of the Digital Grail