Maybe it’s because my dad was a plumber before he retired but I find public bathrooms interesting places. Not in the same way that George Michael finds them interesting you understand.
It has been said that Coca Cola is “the great leveller”. Whether you’re a President of the United States, or a shoeless pauper in the shanty towns of Mombasa, you get the same Coca Cola. Toilets are pretty much the same thing. Rupert Murdoch and Rupert the Bear both just ask for a hole in the ground in which to ablute.
Gents toilets are especially funny to observe. Again, I reiterate, not in any kind of trying-to-catch-somebody’s-eye kind of way (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my bag, baby), in fact, that’s usually a pretty direct route to an unpleasant confrontation and a mouthful of (wait for it) knuckles. Western civilisation is at a point now where things are a bit broken. We complain about the German bloke around the pool on holiday in his Speedos with half a testicle hanging out, pointing, tutting, and shaking our heads with emphatic displeasure (and laughing, usually), and they we’ll happily stand next to the German bloke later that night, after he’s put some pants on, with his little man hanging out whizzing in the same trough as us.
Women probably don’t understand the strict rules of Gents toilets. I mean, why would they? They’re probably as much of an enigma to them as their toilets are to us. What is it that makes female toilets so different to ours that they demand two-person operation? They never go alone! If watching cheesy teenage RomComs has taught me anything, ladies’ loos consist of nothing but an enormous mirror and girls doing their lippy and ensuring their boobs are appropriately pushed together. Surely they can do that by themselves?
Where was I? Oh yes. The Rules of The Gents go thusly:
- Thou shalt not make eye contact. Under no circumstances will the light reflected off another patron of said Chamber of Ablutions strike thine retina. Upon accidental eye contact, utmost effort must be made to look in any other direction (upwards is preferred, especially if still at the urinals) and an abject apology must be immediately offered through the medium of a jaunty whistling.
- A man’s time on the throne is precious and he will not be hurried. Great things have come from men spending time in the smallest room. James May attributes his entire career to it. The Space Shuttle, BBC Micro, The World Wide Web, Santa Claus, the Ford Capri 2.8i and probably toilet roll have all been conceived by blokes sitting upon porcelain. It is not uncommon to see cublicles being used as fortresses of solutide. Many a time I have entered my own cubicle, started to make use of the facilities and after several minutes a nearby cubicle door fly open, somebody mutter, “that’s it!”, and leave. They have clearly not been there making use of the icy white perch, instead they have been concocting sheer brilliance. And brilliance takes time. And sometimes a copy of Autocar.
- Thou shalt not queue for the hand-dryer. Queueing is for two types of people. Bank customers and Russians in the 1990s. Your jeans offer sufficient absorbency.
- Thou shalt find another urinal, mate. It is highly impolite to opt for a nearby urinal if there is an available one further away. If at all possible, two gentlemen entering the Anteroom of Natural Effectation must immediately diverge and find porcelain recepticles at opposite ends of the room. The bigger the room, the more polite you can be. Upon entering a public toilet to find two acquaintances shouting at eachother from opposite ends of the room, you must immediately issue the Muffled Cough of Respect and find the urinal equidistant from each of them.
- Three shakes and you’re playing with yourself. Also known as the Ronseal rule. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
- It is a competition. Whether you’re going for a onesy or a twosy, it is commonplace to try and make as much noise as possible. A significant and sustained waterfall sound is worthy of a Muffled Cough of Respect. While a US-Navy-frigate-dropping-a-depth-charge-into-the-mid-Atlantic kind of splash will usually attract a Hallowed Cough-Sniff. Achieving both at the same time is the Holy Grail of Battleshits and may result in light applause.
There are other rules too, but I feel a series coming on. Stay tuned…