The Cleanest Bottom in Hollywood

Wolfgang’s toilet.

They’re not two words I ever expected to write in the same sentence, but the receptacle of which I speak has to be one of the seven great wonders of modern technology (on a list that includes the Eurostar and the i-Pad).

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is one of my favourite haunts in Beverly Hills: a large steak restaurant with a long bar down one side, and delightful staff that never make me feel less than hugely welcome.

It has delightful and soothing piano music, some really good European wines (difficult to find in LA, with its excess of California plonk, which I loathe), and a sociable clientele who make it easy to make friends if you’re sitting by yourself.

But the toilet. Oh, the toilet.

The first thing that strikes you is how warm the seat is. It’s like going back to the womb; that, in itself, makes you reluctant to get off.

But then there are the various dials to your right on the wall: the first two say “REAR CLEANSING”, with five small vertical dots under the one, and four dots and the word “SOFT” written under the second button.

Next comes “FRONT CLEANSING”, with two sets of four dots in a diamond shape underneath. Then you have “PRESSURE” and “POSITION”, with a plus at the top and a minus below. I tell you: the place is a veritable theatre.

I didn’t know which bits to wash first, nor (not having entertained myself in this manner before), how much pressure to go for.

Was it like an Indian restaurant, where you ordered the Vindaloo and then realised, too late, that you had over-estimated how strong your constitution was?

Then there was position to consider. Did you have to take the size of your rear end into consideration when deciding whether to sit more towards the front or back of the seat? Or did the position button take care of all that for you?

In the time it was taking me to weigh up my options, a lengthy queue was doubtless forming outside the door, impatient customers who had yet to discover what an adventure the emptying of one’s bladder and bowels could be.

In the end, I tried all options. I could take the Vindaloo force on front wash, but had to take it easy on non-soft rear wash, which, on full pressure, made me feel as if an elephant had decided to empty its trunk into my back passage.

Front cleansing was an easier and far more pleasurable operation altogether, but then that was something I had already learned long ago.

The only thing I didn’t manage to do was flush the damned thing. When I put the lid down, the array of lights and paraphernalia turned the bowl into the Star Ship Enterprise. I pressed, I tapped, I looked in vain for a flush, but nothing.

When I questioned the staff about this (adding my compliments to the plumber) upon my return to the restaurant (days later, it seemed, and a lot cleaner than when I had gone in), I was assured that even if you haven’t managed to work out the logistics, it flushed automatically once you left the cubicle.

It wasn’t until I got back to my seat that I realized I hadn’t actually done the very thing I had gone in there for – namely, the evacuation of my supper; there were just too many other things to do.

Quite what President Elect Donald Trump would think of it all is anybody’s guess. California is almost always suffering from a water shortage for some time now (so many Kardashians with grounds to sprinkle), and if the entertainment offered by Wolfgang’s toilet starts attracting bigger audiences than it already does, that shortage is only going to worsen.

I suppose they could try using the same water, recycling it and purifying it in some way, but I suspect that would probably negate the “cleaning” part of the operation.

I’m also curious as to what goes on in the men’s room at Wolfgang’s. Presumably, they have the same bowl and dials for longer performances, but I’m curious as to what their urinal is like.

Is there a small shower for testicle cleansing, a foreskin wash, added pressure for the less sensitive circumcised organ? Do men have to change position according to the size of their anatomy? Do very large penises have to be done in shifts?

There are so many unanswered questions about Wolfgang’s toilet, but at least I have information about the most important one – can I get one installed in my apartment?

Apparently, they cost only about $1500, which, when you compare it to the price of going to the theatre, is a really good deal, considering how many toilet performances you are going to attend in your lifetime.

I’m going to ask my landlords to look into it and try to convince them of the benefits of having the cleanest tenant on the block.

And, when it’s installed, I might invite my 25 year old Italian neighbour to the premier. Maybe we can share a Cornetto in the interval.

Ready for my close-up? You bet. I already feel flushed with success.

Single Supplements Extra (Hassle)

Business travel at a fraction of the cost.

The French boutique airline, La Compagnie, which in June 2016 started operating flights between New York, London and Paris, appears to have it all – until you try to register on their site. As I travel between all three places and enjoy my creature comforts, when I tried to sign up I discovered I couldn’t, as there were just two options: Mr or Mrs.

As a single woman, I have always refused to tick the “Miss” box on any application form, for one simple reason: no man is ever asked to tick “Master” or “Mister” i.e. a man is never asked to declare whether he is married or not. While many sneer at “Ms”, it is, to me, entirely correct. The only reason women were ever required to declare their marital status was because, as singles, they were deemed unable to have the resources to pay their bills: having a man as an appendage made a woman reliable (allegedly. They’ll learn).

I had this argument with British Telecom some years back in the UK, when they asked if I was a Miss or a Mrs. I refused to tell them and questioned whether men were required to say if they were single or married. Of course, they were not.

La Compagnie also offers special deals, yet the current ones are all “for two” – check out their current Valentine’s Day special. I have no partner, I travel alone, yet always find myself excluded from the things I enjoy the most. I can’t, for example, have the Chateaubriand or the paella “for two” in a restaurant. I once ordered the latter and said I would pay the full price, but was refused on the grounds that it would be “too much for one person”. No amount of my arguing that I would just leave half of it would persuade the waiter to help me part with my money. I very much doubt they would have treated a man with the same gastronomic contempt. I ended up with a pork chop. For one.

Single women, especially ones in the over 50s bracket, are still perceived as weirdos when out alone or, at best, second class citizens. In San Francisco one lunchtime last year, I was pointed to a really nice table in the middle of the restaurant, only to be bumped when the maitre d’ spotted a couple behind me in the queue. She then told me I could sit at the bar or outside. The bar was overcrowded; the outside seat had a great view of Alcatraz (possibly the only time anyone has wanted to escape to the prison). I left without eating and phoned to make a complaint.

“We really don’t treat women like that,” said the manager. “You just did,” I pointed out, adding that the couple who took my table probably had a green salad between them and a jug of tap water. I would have had champagne, wine, three courses, and probably still been in there when dinnertime came around, to begin the routine all over again.

It is hard enough being single in a world where travel companies continue to charge single supplements, tax breaks benefit couples, and society as a whole celebrates and fawns over marriage, without having to deal with the anti-singles and/or anti-ageist frustrations socially. I happen to be a big fan of marriage: I come from a very stable background and am lucky enough to have had a loving mother and father who could not have been better parents. It just hasn’t worked out that way for me. I’m not bitter about it; I don’t really think about it, unless I am asked. I have a wonderful family, incredible friends and, for all its obstacles, a better life than most people in the world. I am truly blessed.

But I still get treated like a social leper as a single, older woman. Most married couples don’t include you at their social functions unless they have a recently divorced/largely unmarketable/psycho man in their circle that they might be able to palm off on you. Then there are the practical difficulties to deal with when you are out. If you have to go to the toilet when you are in a restaurant, you have limited choices: leave your stuff at the table and return to find it removed by a waiter who thinks you have done a runner, or have it stolen by a passer-by.

The third option – asking the people at the next table to keep an eye on your things – attracts the kind of looks you might get had you handed them a rifle and asked them to commit armed robbery in your absence.

It’s not as if I haven’t tried to meet someone who will split the Chateaubriand with me, but it hasn’t gone well. I recently attended a gathering of singles, where a French hobbit grappled with my friend’s right breast in what appeared to be an attempt to secure her stick-on name badge. He was 103, if he was a day. Next, a walrus appeared at my side, claiming to be a criminal psychologist. The walrus was also in the early stages of dementia, because he asked me my name five times.

There was also an attempt to entertain us by a ‘close-up magician’, who tried to hypnotise us with non-existent snake oil. We had to imagine our hands were glued together with said oil and then try to pull them apart, the premise being that we wouldn’t be able to. Er, we did.

The truth is, that if a man is single and older, there is usually something wrong with him (all the good ones really are taken); but if a woman is single and older, the chances are that she has had the good sense and guts to ditch the men who have that something wrong with them. That’s not to say there aren’t strange women out there (heck, I know some guys who would categorise me as that) but, for the most part, there are far more bright, sharp, funny women on the market than there are men.

Unless you act fast to secure Windows 2018 by August (you have to look out early for those inevitable Christmas break-ups), you’re going to miss out on the good guys next time around, too.

So, as I sit contemplating my Chateaubriand and paella free lifestyle while planning my travel over the next few months, I’m going to suggest to you, Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur, enabler and grand empowerer of people, that you get behind my campaign to get great deals for single, older women. I can’t think of anyone better to have on our side, and all it needs now is for me to sign off.

Yours, hopefully, Jaci Stephen (Ms).

Older, Not Dead Yet Travels – Introduction

A few things start happening to you when you hit 50. In your head, you’re still 28, but to the outside world, you’re 98. The normal pitch of talking you have enjoyed for five decades is replaced by people shouting to within two inches of your face, and a slowness of pace usually reserved for foreigners who don’t understand a word of English. Age, it seems, carries with it the assumption of deafness, if not stupidity.

Nowhere is the change of attitude more apparent than when traveling and this is why I have decided to write this blog, soon to be followed by a website (Not There Yet Travel), dedicated to the older traveler (I will be keeping to mostly US spellings throughout, so please, no admonitory missives) . Note: NOT OLD. I am a healthy, sprightly 58, yet when I hit the big Five O, I went from being “Miss” to “Madam” on airlines; ordering a pint of lager at an airport bar was greeted with looks of disdain; being an older, single woman, traveling alone, I was perceived as someone who (A) was lonely (B) had never been able to land a man (C) had managed to kill one off, or (D) was very rich as a result of either B or C.

Heaven forbid that I should enjoy my hard-earned money spending it on the thing I love most – traveling the world; meeting new people; sharing food, wine, experiences, and learning about other cultures. The horror, the horror!

Post 50, particularly in the UK, one is expected to crawl into a hole and wait patiently for death (the people waiting for it to happen wait impatiently, of course). It’s less true, I have found, in the US, where age tends to equal experience, which is valued (I’ve also found the same in France and Spain, both countries that revere their ageing populations).

I refuse to become one of life’s moles. Within the past eight years, I have traveled more than I ever have. Recently, I became mortgage free and intend to travel a great deal more in the future. At the start of my 50s, I met a woman on a cruise (I was writing a feature for a newspaper’s travel pages) who said: “You should travel while you’ve got your health.” That comment hit home like no other, and I have been on the move ever since.

The average age of retirement for Americans is 63, which is incredibly young by today’s standards, and there is a lot of living to be done, even at the end of one’s working life (alas, in the UK, the age appears to rise).

And so, I’m going to be writing about my own adventures and welcome the opportunity to hear about others’, too. Walking, climbing, sailing, flying . . . The world is still waiting; the waiting room can wait.

We may be getting older, but we’re not dead yet – and where there are Air Miles, there is life.

Beam me up, Scotty.