Bath Time in the EU

wolfgang kaspar IIA visit to France these days can be relied upon for regular snippets of the surreal. Here is an example.

Vernet-Les-Bains, a green oasis among steep rock walls deep in the Pyrenees. The first real rain in five weeks makes us decide to drop the hike that Rudyard Kipling used to undertake take when he taking the waters at this genteel spa popular with Victorians. Instead, we would try the thermal pool.

A huge building with the sign Thermes. No one at the entrance. A bystander says: “Just go in. They are at lunch.” Downstairs, we are handed fluffy bathrobes and heated towels. Undress, leave clothing in cubicles. Enter pool area, luxuriate under slightly sulfurous shower.

A friendly, bearded fellow appears: “Monsieur, you cannot dress in this sort of swim trunk.”

“Why not?”

“It is against regulations in the entire EU, except Spain, because you could wear unclean underpants underneath.”

“I am not incontinent and always wipe my bum.”

“Monsieur, I know, but there are regulations. I can find you a legal, tight pair of trunks.”

I comply, after all if it is an EU regulation, you must obey.

“Monsieur, where is your bath cap? You need one before you go in the pool. Our establishment does not allow hairs or follicles to get  into the pool.”

I go up two staircases and through a long corridor to acquire a legal cap for a subsidised two euros, now eager for the warm pool. I cannot help myself and say to the young, bearded fellow, “If you go in the pool, what do you do about a beard?”

“There is an exemption for beards under EU law.”

As I am about to immerse myself, he asks: “Didn’t they tell you at the entrance about these regulations?”

“There was nobody there. They were at lunch.”

“Oh, then you have not bought the required insurance slip for yourself and your wife.”


“You need this insurance immediately. If one of you had a heart attack, I would be liable and ruined.”

Although I feel a choleric attack coming in, I climb up two floors, walk the long corridor, buy two 24-hr insurance policies, also cheap and EU-subsidised.

Now at long last we can join the fat, the meagre, the shapely and unshapely in the pool and the Jacuzzis. Bliss.

My friendly tormentor is back almost immediately: “You know that 95% of guests come here paid for by social security. That is why did not think immediately to inquire about insurance. Are you a social security guest?”


“Well, then you cannot get your insurance reimbursed. So, you come from the hotel. They should have explained the regulations to you.”

“No, we just parked in the rain and rushed in to get warm again.”

“Make sure you check in immediately. Meantime, we have to transfer your clothes from the social security cubicles to non-social security cubicles two floors up.”

I go, accompanied by him, gathering my wife’s and my gear, happy to become more and more legal. When I want to put all our clothes into the assigned locker, my friend says: “You cannot put female clothes in these male lockers. It is not allowed.”

When I obediently go to the empty ladies locker room, he is horrified: “Men cannot enter here.” He gets a friendly female colleague, who helps obligingly. As we descend again to the pool floor, he inquires whether I have a hotel reservation.

Now, I abandon honesty at long last and say yes.

The lie allows me to wallow in luxurious spa waters among the 95%, who are privileged social security free-riders, most comatose in Jacuzzis, some still pretty young, but obviously with friendly doctors. It’s the French system.

Eventually, we dress, bid farewell to our friendly tormentor. “Now, s’il vous plait, go immediately to the hotel check-in desk, and let them know you already had a bath.”

We make a hasty retreat from the thermal establishment, sure we had an illegal dip. But to be sure we drive across two mountain passes to get to the safety of Andorra.

This is my conclusion:

Liberte — long abolished by the EU and lesser autocrats, but hardly anyone has noticed.

Égalite — those who get government and social security money are more equal than those few who want to pay their own way.

Fraternite — our amiable, well-spoken tormentor demonstrated that this at least still exists.

What might Charlie Chaplin have done with this material? Or Kafka?

Wolfgang Kaspar (above) contributed Small Change at Huge Cost to the January, 2015, edition of Quadrant. He is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of New South Wales and former Senior Fellow of the Centre for Independent Studies, a profile by Julia Novak can be found here

11 thoughts on “Bath Time in the EU

  • Jody says:

    Ugly, on steroids. Pandering to minorities aye? My son employs people. He recently received an application from an American for seasonal work who had a degree is Psychology from an American university on ‘queer studies’. My son’s job is for hard physical work which this person (cannot detect whether male or female) demonstrates from previous employment. But the application went into the bin once the topic of the ‘study’ was noted and that it was under a program for ‘minorities’. See; there are consequences for these pampered minorities. Nobody wants a bar of them in the workforce.

    • ianl says:

      > “… there are consequences for these pampered minorities. Nobody wants a bar of them in the workforce”

      But saying so out loud is very dangerous. There is a plethora of Fed, State and local Council laws that will then be used to beat you to pulp.

      The recount of insufferable micro-management above is sufficient unto itself to explain, justify Brexit.

  • pgang says:

    Nearly everybody is caught up in thuggish thinking now. Over at the SSM ‘debate’ there is a familiar argument that goes, ‘so should a business be allowed to not serve a Catholic?’. Yes proponents think this is pretty clever, and it’s amazing how many people get caught up in it. The answer to the question, if you give it a moment’s logical thought, is yes – a business must have the freedom to restrict its own activities, otherwise it’s not really a private business. Of course it’s a misleading argument anyway because the question is not about serving homosexuals, it’s about serving homosexuals who are presuming to become married, which is something else entirely.

    • whitelaughter says:

      [nods] Yes, the flip side is “do you want to give custom to a business that wants to discriminate against you?” Better to be told, so that you can go elsewhere, than to increases the profits of your enemies.

    • ianl says:

      I do wonder about this – not the right to refuse custom to whomsoever the owner/management decides upon – but the seeming naivety of stating outright: “I will not supply a cake for your SSM wedding as it contravenes my principles, beliefs [whatever]”. Do that and pulp time is on.

      So why not just make a firm quote for an absolutely outrageous price (say, $45k or something) and supply is guaranteed for December 2039 or whenever …

      • Jody says:

        As a former landlord I quickly learned how to use the right language. The cake-makers have to do the same. “Sorry, we are too busy” etc. etc. No case to answer; problem solved.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    That is just not an option for people of principle.

    It is not being true to that which they hold on their heart.
    Adopting such attitudes have led us to today’s behaviours.

    Could you see Ghandi or J F Kennedy behaving like that?

    • ianl says:

      > “Could you see Ghandi or J F Kennedy behaving like that?”

      They did, constantly. Passive-aggressive resistance is the most difficult to counter. Self-declared martyrs are easy, especially when you control the public megaphone (MSM) to throttle information flow.

      I can see why the left continuously wins so easily.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    Ghandi and Kennedy stuck to the truth in their hearts.
    They did not waver in the face of deceit and dishonesty.
    Nor to true conservatives.
    Wavelets like Turnbull adopt deceit and dishonesty.
    ‘The ways love love and truth always win.’
    History shows that.

    The left wins?
    Hittler lost
    The USSR lost
    Mao lost
    Castro lost
    Ho lost
    Pol Pot lost
    Venezuela lost

    Name a leftie system that has won?

    In Australia they’d have us believe we’ve lost.

    We are a long way from losing.

  • Jacob Jonker says:

    Hilarious! It is almost as if made up, but is bound to be true, as that is how it goes, but what a fluke to get the works all at one place. I’m in France quite often, if not every year. No problems, or hardly. How to approach the French, that is usually the key to getting what you want. A slight attitude or simple faux pass will be returned with a vengeance sometimes. The British hate the French, apparently. Now the French are starting to hate the EU. Except for insurance, I don’t find them such sticklers for rules, but…, it’s their country, don’t forget.

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