When I got to Lausanne I felt a little as if I had arrived in Bucharest: a flat (nicer than ours, though, but not too good looking), a Romanian family, Romanian food, Romanian words spoken about Romania. That was my impression until I got out in the street and into the first shop. I was familiar with other people?s experiences and I tried to keep my emotions and tears in check at the sight of shop windows filled with meat. I was weak, though ? I could hardly conceive that everything there was available to regular customers who did not need special permits and tags. We still didn?t have supermarkets in Bucharest, so I was for the first time in my life faced with such an avalanche of different goods, one more tempting then the next and, fancy that, even affordable! Then the long walks through the city ?
Well, my favourite pastime was to ?visit? all pub toilets. It wasn?t because I couldn?t curb it or something. I just considered the whole thing as a sort of sport. I won if I was able to figure out the flushing system in the shortest period of time. I crowned myself champion, as each time I was able to guess that I was supposed to press a certain tile in the bathroom floor with my foot, or that I had to clap my hands or whistle a certain tune or other such nonsense that replaced (uselessly, I?d say) the classical chain in the wall or the common button. (After a few years they marketed an improved system which, after flushing, activated a sponge dipped in a chemical solution which was placed on the toilet seat, and the toilet seat started spinning round as it disinfected itself automatically. One day, pressed by a certain torturing necessity, I entered a toilet and discovered that my ?predecessor? had forgotten to flush. I did that for him, and one second later, I flung myself on the toilet seat. Somebody with a weaker heart would have dropped dead if they had felt that something was pocking them vigorously in the back and the seat underneath them started spinning round all by itself. I had completely forgotten that the system was turned on automatically.) My visits to public toilets had one other purpose: washing my hands and consequently getting to use the most exquisitely perfumed liquid soaps which would charm my nostrils until the next corner where I would again find a restaurant with a toilet and more liquid soap and ? Still, once I almost got into trouble. Literally and metaphorically ? I found that there was no water tap. Thinking myself cleverer than the system, I concluded that it was a photo-electrical cell activating the water flow and, in order to avoid splashing too much of it, I placed my hands as high as I could, close to the pipe where the water would gush from. The result was the one I had anticipated but it was 70 Celsius degrees hot water that came out. The lower I stooped, the cooler the water became. That was a precious lesson for me and since then, I?ve limited myself to rational hand-washing, namely only when needed.
One other thing that delighted me was to see people smiling in the streets, in stores, in restaurants or in the lifts of blocks of flats. I went down with one person in the morning, who was a complete stranger to me, and I got a smile and a ?bon jour? and, after helping the person with the lift door, I got another smile and a ?bon journée?. I was doubtlessly in another world. I don?t know whether it was better or worse, nicer or nastier. The only thing I knew was that this world which was completely new to me and which I had just begun to explore, after the initial shock had passed and I was beginning to somehow adjust, offered me a feeling of freedom and peace of mind. My fellow men didn?t step on my toes anymore; I wasn?t aggressed in any imaginable way. My God, why hadn?t they given me the passport back in 1981?!