26 April, 2006

Cistern addict

There aren't any urinals in the toilets at work, only cubicles. When I discovered this, on my first day in the job, I was pleasantly surprised - not least for coming after such an execreable state of affairs (literally, I'm afraid) at my last place, where not just the chinawork but the actual floor would often be caked in filth, and one of the urinals remained blocked for three whole weeks. Plus there was that cubicle, about which I have spoken before, which remained unrepaired for the entire three and a half years that I worked there, the broken lock requiring you to lean against it the door with one hand (if you were standing up) or just take pot luck at not being interrupted (if you were sitting down).

Anyhow, not only are the toilets in my present job in fully working order, they are also regularly cleaned. I can tell as much by the fact there is a rota pinned up on the door, like the ones you get in service stations, ostensibly listing the times at which the premises have been properly refurbished and upholstered. Indeed, from this list they seem to be cleaned about ten times a day.

However the absence of urinals and the presence of ancillary staff does not, as I have been finding out, preclude the toilet's patrons from treating the place exactly how they would at home (or not, as the case may be). For recently I've had the increasing misfortune to walk into the toilets and find someone using one of the cubicles with the door wide open.

What the hell is the point in that? I don't want to hear, let alone see, a person going about their private business in the public gaze, especially when a door has been laid on to avoid just such an eventuality. It's salubrious and also somewhat arrogant: what do I care for doors, these people are declaring, I can piss when I want how I want, and sod the rest of you.

It's worse than a urinal, in fact, because at least they are designed to afford a modicum of privacy and necessitate you standing close to the porcelain in order to avoid an aquacade of poisonous precipitation. With ordinary toilets, though, people seem inclined to treat the business of passing water as target practice and to stand as far back from the bowl as they can manage, thereby making their performance far more of a self-conscious and desperately noisy act. On a few occasions I have walked into the toilets and found people standing almost outside the cubicles such is their ambition to project as towering an arc of fluid as their muscles can muster.

If it all sounds somewhat preposterous, then that's exactly how it is. It's also very embarrassing. Going to the toilet should be a pleasurable act, of course, but also a private one. What's worse than having your train of thought - and mode of operation - interrupted by somebody striding into your cubicle, assuming it was empty simply down to the small matter of the door being open? The moment is lost, the solitude is gone, and you're most likely left with a red face and soiled trousers. It really is taking the piss.

Fellow colleagues, I feel like saying, if there's a door, keep it closed. Please don't treat the bowl like it's a urinal. There is a difference. Soundproofing for one. And besides, when it comes to going to the toilet, you can't beat the cistern.


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