05 December 2005 - (Link
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What happened to the French Tickler?
Not so very long ago, gas stations and roadside cafes earned a bit of
extra revenue by bolting vending machines to the walls above their urinals.
Unless you are a big homo like me, glancing about or talking in the men's
room is taboo. Really, there are only two activities available when
holding your penis in one hand, so most men stare straight ahead at the
blank wall while trying not to splatter on their shoes.
A smart vendor realized the value of this empty wall space and a captive
audience. For one or two quarters, a man could purchase exotic toys
designed to please the woman waiting outside in the station wagon full
of children, the lady in the revealing dress in the cab of his truck, or
- most probably - to keep for some fantasy date that would likely never
happen. The ads for Asian Love Rings, Super Stimulator Condoms, and
- of course - the French Tickler, always featured women with their heads
thrown back, their breasts pointing to heaven, and a look that promised
the elusive female orgasm.
Somewhere in the last Bush administration the popularity of restroom
vending machines began to fade. Women will always purchase sanitary
products, but French Tickler sales declined across the nation. Maybe
all the shiny-new corporate gas stations with mini-marts no longer needed
the small revenue earned from above-urinal sales, or maybe the Asian Love
Ring just didn't fit with BP's new sunburst logo (although they do look
somewhat alike). Whatever the reason, the machines and their promise
of sexual pleasure faded like the hopes of universal healthcare.
On Saturday I spotted the last of these machines in a movie theater
bathroom. Instead of condoms or ticklers or rings, it offered temporary
armband tattoos, athletic-themed stickers, and some kind of flavored candy.
I miss the French Tickler. Maybe public restrooms are manifestation
of the way we wish our lives really were, but aren't. The ultra-bright,
super sanitary, temporary tattoo restroom is pure and - more importantly
- safe. I prefer my nostalgic old gas station bathroom. Standing
in a dingy restroom with my penis in my hand and a condom dispenser on
the wall always felt masculine, slightly dirty, somewhat unsafe - and perhaps
a bit more honest.
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