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Brussels Nord train station. At the entrance of the toilet, there is a table on which I see a grey doily and a basket with plastic little pink roses, also a notice: 0.5 EUR P.L.S.
Around the table there are three corpulent women in their 50s. One of them is black, she’s smiling, and I can see she’s new in the business. A more experienced one is speaking loudly sharing knowledge while people come in and out. An old man stands confused by a pile of paper tissues on the table, but none of the three pays attention.
“Listen my dear, they have to pay your fees in time and to provide you with a replacement!” She turns to the man standing: “Help yourself, Monsieur! Yes, there is paper in the toilet, this you can take if you want to dry your hands after!
“You hear me, dear? A replacement. Very important. A re-pla-ce-ment!
“Here,” and she hands the new woman a small paper as if she would be reading tarot cards. “Here you mark everything you do: WC, (Go on Madam, don’t be shy!), mirror – that’s when you clean in front of the big glass, and so on…
“But very important, when you can’t make it, there has to be someone to replace you. That’s what the union guys always tell us: the replacement is mandatory! If you get sick and can’t make it to work they HAVE to find you a replacement!!”
The three women all nod and the new one smiles with a sense of being accepted in the group. Just above their table I see two intriguing small prints, and now I regret not having the presence to take a picture of that whole set up. One is the Belgium flag. The other a Catholic icon.
I don’t get to see who the patron saint of “damme pipi”s is because I get disturbed by another character entering the toilet: a Muslim woman with a blue veil, the apology of multi tasking. She’s dragging a child with one hand, a small suitcase with the other and she’s speaking on her huge smart phone which is held in place to her ear by the veil.
As I go out of the toilet, I bump into a man asking around “Marie, Marie? Where are you?”. It takes me a few good seconds to understand what is he doing in the women’s toilet. He’s blind.
The conclusion I get is that in any case you can piss in peace in Brussels, because the ladies cleaning the toilets are very serious with their job and, if they can not make it, they always have a replacement!
… Memories of my last passage through the city of Manneken Pis, soon after the attack on the 22nd of March.