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Travel Advice

Travel is educational. This summer my wife and I will have been married 50 years and, as a gift, our daughter sent us on a riverboat cruise in Europe. We sailed through parts of The Netherlands, Germany and Austria where we visited, among other things, cathedrals, castles and toilets. The cathedrals were magnificent and the castles were OK. More about the toilets later.

At one point we got off our ship and took a bus to the beautiful city of Heidelberg. While there, we saw the University of Heidelberg and I got an idea of how to improve education in Charleston. The University there is ancient and at some time in the distant past the city fathers complained that the University students were getting out of hand. The local authorities were unable to sufficiently reign in their behavior. The University solved the problem. They created a prison adjacent to the campus. When a student was found guilty of an infraction he - all students were male - would be sentenced to a period of time in the prison. But he still had to attend classes! The practice has fallen out of favor, but tourists can visit the prison to see the graffiti painted by the students on the walls of their cells.

Here is my idea for improving education in Charleston. Adjacent to the High School we should build a modest sized prison. When Freddy acts up in math class, instead of the teacher telling Freddy to go see the principle, he sentences Freddy to two days in the slammer. But Freddy still has to attend classes!

If Charleston High had had a prison eons ago when Woodrow Haynes invited me into his office and applied his giant paddle to my behind, he would have had a choice. I could have been incarcerated.

I a city with one million residents, there is an enormous Cathedral โ€“ second tallest in Germany - 500 feet. It towers over the city. They began building it in 1248. After working on it for 300 years the citizens learned that the architect, at the time, hoped to make it taller than they thought possible. They decided that he was guided by the devil and so killed him. It was about 400 more years before the Cathedral was completed. (It survived the Second World War because Allied pilots used its tall spires as a marker for their bombing runs. We dropped 1,455 tons of explosives on Cologne but spared the Cathedral.)

Our guide from the ship led us to the giant plaza in front of the cathedral and suggested we tour the building. (He was not allowed to act as a guide inside.) By way of information he pointed out that there was a public restroom just to the right of the Cathedral entrance.

My wife and I decided to use the facilities, our first public toilet in Europe. It was below ground so we walked down the stairs where we came face-to-face, so to speak, with a turnstile. In order to enter this restroom you needed to insert a fifty cent coin โ€“ half a Euro. It so happened I had a handful of coins that included exactly two of the required denomination. As we were leaving the facility there was an Asian family standing helplessly at the turnstile. Clearly they did not have the appropriate coins and there was no change machine available. They were still there as we ascended the stairs. We felt empathetic but helpless.

At other places in Europe there would be a stern looking lady collecting money at the entrance to the toilet. The stern lady was an improvement over the turnstiles as she would have change so that exact coins were not required.

Here is an idea from our European toilet experiences. When Arkansas legislators are looking for ways to save money, they might look at the funds used to maintain all of those rest stops on Interstate Highways. They could hire stern ladies to stand at the entrances of the rest stops and collect money. It works in the Old World, why not in the New.

A word of advice โ€“ If you are planning to travel in Europe, take a bucket full of European fifty cent pieces.

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