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05 December 2005 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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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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