Toilet Tales 04
When I was at Bangor University there was an edict passed down by the head of department that no visiting prospective student should be taken above the sixth floor, because they didn’t need to see what went on up there; for a clean-living physical chemist like himself he considered the organic research groups to be dirty, seeing as they actually did proper chemical experiments, and for him, safely ensconced in his first floor office, they were the departmental shame.
Seeing as on many occasions it fell to me as being the one entrusted with selling the best face of the university to the future generation and, knowing these cast-iron restrictions, I subsequently always started my tour of the tower in the men’s toilets on the tenth floor. And that was just with the girls. What can you say; I was a maverick, breaking all the rules: if only he knew.
There was method in my madness however as to the fresh-eyed visitor I was painting a picture for them as from the window of that toilet I maintained you could witness the best view in Bangor. And as student numbers subsequently went up and up the man smell surely can’t have been that off-putting.
I loved that tower and used the document the graffiti I found in its various toilets, with the men’s on the second floor always providing the highlights, such as “I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it was just some bastard with a torch bringing me more work”.
Someone had poetically considered that “Some come here to shit and stink. I come here to sit and think”. Whereas somebody else, with considerably less philosophy in their soul, replied underneath: “I come here to play with my knob”. The humorous reply, an art form in itself, reminds me of the stencil graffiti slogan Women Are Not Objects which I found outside the Manchester University refectory; memorable only for the reply underneath, in a felt tip pen: No, but ye do object a lot.
My personal Bangor favourite was the enigmatic line: “Anything above eight pounds has to be lowered with a rope”, which used to give me flashbacks to the man who used to persistently ring me up wanting to service my “mini hoist” which I always maintained I did not have, although the only graffiti I ever found in the toilet of Costa Coffee was written near the ceiling and complained about the price of a pot of tea; which just goes to show how some people have no class, or imagination. Oh for a toilet with a view these days.
I’d long given up trying to sneak invisibly into Costa, to use their toilet before buying my drink, as when I’d tried this in the past I usually ended up getting to the counter to find that the eagle-eyed staff in there had spotted me on the way in and already made me the drink they thought I probably would have wanted before I’d even decided myself. So, to combat this, whenever I arrived in town bursting I then had to go out of my way to the toilet in the shopping centre, before walking all the way back to take up residence in the coffee shop outside their own.
In the shopping centre toilet there was no view of the sea, or of an ancient cathedral, but I did once see a ragged alcoholic by the sinks struggling to decant his cheap nasty cider into an empty half-litre cola bottle. I knew it was nasty, aside from the look of the tin, because I saw him take a swig of it as he worked and he visibly gagged. I didn’t judge him, but it was clear to me this was a man struggling with social stigmatisation, who didn’t want passers-by defining him by his afternoon joviality and so concealed his pale yellow cider by hiding it in plain sight with the aide of a clear Pepsi bottle. Similarly I also once witnessed a local tramp, Bill, filling up similar bottles with water from the taps. I felt like telling him that it probably wasn’t suitable for drinking, but then that was surely the least of his problems. It was only later on that I considered that he might have been filling them as mini hot water bottles, to see him through a couple of hours of a cold winter day: a trick of the trade for those living on the streets.
Arriving at the shopping centre toilets that I day I found the men’s closed for cleaning, a fold out bar restricting my way, however as I’m a nice person I managed to charm the toilet-guardian woman into letting me use the disabled toilet next door, which she opened up with her magical Radar key: the enchanting-sounding device seemingly owned by all disabled people as if they belonged to some sort of secret club. I wondered what cavern of disabled-only luxuries lay within.
What I found was a toilet fitted with a padded rest, with meant that you couldn’t actually raise the seat high enough for it to stand upright; obviously assuming that all disabled people wanted to sit, whist they attended to their business, and sit in padded luxury. So not wishing to sit on any public toilet seat I didn’t have to I was left with the options of either holding the seat up with one hand, whilst using the other for precision, or alternatively use both hands for accuracy to try and guide my golden stream cleanly through the gap without splashing the seat.
Having navigated the first obstacle I then discovered that there wasn’t any toilet paper, which wasn’t ideal, and giving up I then tried to outwit the sink by pushing, squeezing, and turning the only tap to no effect as it wouldn’t budge. I then noticed the sign on the wall that read “due to unforeseen circumstances the tap is not working”. I’m guessing that the “unforeseen circumstance” was that there wasn’t any water. It continued on about how instead you should use the specially installed disinfectant spray next to the soap, which I pressed to find it empty. As if disabled people didn’t have it hard enough already.
When the man with the decanted cider had emerged from those toilets he must’ve fallen prey to a greater social taboo than afternoon drinking because to the general public it must have appeared that he was swigging from a fresh bottle of his own lukewarm urine. Gagging all the way. However when I emerged back into the shopping centre, and went on my way to my coffee shop rendezvous, I was spreading pestilence as I went.