STEVE CANAVAN: My toilet terror

Cubicle etiquette - a tricky one...
Cubicle etiquette - a tricky one...
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Going to the toilet isn’t usually entertaining – although the late George Michael may beg to differ. However, I had a very interesting visit to the lavatory the other day and feel I should share the experience with you.

I was at work and felt a bunged up after a hefty lunch so I headed to the staff loo. As I walked in, I noted the far cubicle of four was taken, so I naturally went into the first one, farthest away.

This is good WC manners; the men I distrust more than any other in the human race, above mass murderers and Simon Cowell, are those who when in a public toilet containing, say, 15 urinals – all unoccupied bar mine – come and stand next to me.

Anyway, I stepped into my cubicle and spent a few moments lining the toilet seat with carefully folded paper. I have explained my rationale for this in previous columns, suffice to say I’m always wary about toilet seats in public places.

Now this might just be me but, in a public toilet, when there is someone in another cubicle I don’t like to go at the same time. Being blunt, I don’t want them to hear that plop when solid hits water. It’s embarrassing. I feel they’ll judge me. So I sit quietly until the other person has finished and gone. 

But this time there was a problem, mainly the fella three toilets along must have had a similar policy because other than making regular loud sniffing noises – he either had a heavy cold or a serious cocaine addiction – there was no sign he was close to finishing, or, worse, even starting.

I was determined not to give in, with the result that this stand-off – or sit-off – went on for 11 minutes.

As I was about to give in – partly because I was expecting an important call in my office, partly because I could no longer hold in what was keen to come out – a remarkable thing happened.

The man in the other cubicle suddenly made an incredibly loud noise – as if being violently assaulted and attempting to shout for help, but not quite able to get the words out because he had a gag round his mouth – followed by a sound I like a small bomb going off in a fast-flowing river.

For the next six minutes, he groaned as if being asked to repeatedly lift a sack of potatoes and kept muttering things like ‘oh my lord’ while sighing and blowing his cheeks (those on his face, for clarity). All the while I sat and listened, mesmerised. It was less toilet visit, more vigorous Zumba workout.

Eventually, after flushing four times, he rose but didn’t leave the cubicle – instead came the sound of frantic rustling. He seemed to be removing one set of clothes and getting into another, for what reason I don’t wish to know. Finally, I heard him unlock the door and step into the main toilet area.

I willed him to swiftly wash his hands and depart like any normal person, but instead he spent a bizarrely lengthy period pacing the sink area and muttering. I don’t know what he had witnessed in that toilet but it had clearly deeply affected him. I checked my watch. I had now been sitting silently in my toilet, hardly daring to move, for 26 minutes.

The person at work with whom I share my office had very possibly called 999 and put out a missing persons appeal.

Mercifully, just when I thought I may have to spend the night there, my lavatory companion – after a worryingly brief wash of his hands – swung open the exit door and it shut behind him. A large part of me wanted to race after him and find out who this man with the extraordinary bowels was.

But that urge was outweighed by the relief of finally being able to do what I had gone there for.

The fact that story was the most interesting moment of my week says something about the state of my life.

Anyway, have a nice rest of the day. Enjoy your tea.