Recently I visited the studio of a leading television station. While in the waiting room at the back of the studio I got a call of nature. Now, when nature calls you have to answer lest everyone around gets to know you have been called.
‘Where are the gents?’ I whispered to the receptionist.
‘The toilet? It’s that way,’ she nodded towards a corridor.
She was one of those loud girls with a don’t care attitude. Everyone heard. Everyone being some two beautiful ladies waiting to go on air. I don’t understand why many years after leaving childhood I still don’t like everyone in the room to know I am going to relieve myself. Sociologists say early childhood socialization tends to persist throughout our lifetime. They are right, as a kid I was raised to believe going to the toilet was something secretive. So despite being a rational adult I still prefer to slip away quietly to do my thing.
We get so embarrassed about a basic natural act that it is now offensive to call a washroom a toilet. And you just can’t stand up in the middle of a meeting and say, ‘Excuse me, I need to go shit.’ Even though that’s exactly what you need to go do.
Somebody explain why the word ‘eat’ is good but the word ‘shit’ is offensive.
Bravely, I tiptoed towards one of two blue doors at the end of a narrow corridor, careful not to release any loud gases that would cause embarrassment. One door was marked ‘Ladies’ and the other ‘Gentlemen’. I wondered what if I release a loud fart out here, would I still be admissible into the ‘Gents’? Because then I wouldn’t be a gentleman, would I?
The Gents was a tiny room about three square feet with clean but aged white tiles covered wall to wall.
I have an aversion to public toilet seats. If you ask me, all public toilets should be flat bowl eastern style. But there I was facing a western style toilet seat. I proceeded to carefully wipe the toilet seat then covered it with tissue paper before starting my journey. I felt a little sense of protection from whatever perceived skin diseases previous visitors might have left behind in loving memory.
A visit to the toilet is usually my time to relax for a few minutes. For this reason I don’t carry cell phones to the toilet. I have seen quite a number of people do though. What for? Probably they respond to text messages they ignored the previous night while lying in bed with the wife. Probably they look at their Facebook walls to see how many people liked their latest profile picture. Maybe they just scroll through Whatsapp status updates and get envious of the neighbour’s family photo taken at the gate of an expensive private school earlier that day. Or maybe they text their husbands to remind them to buy milk on the way home. I will never know for sure because I prefer to meditate and wonder about life’s big mysteries as I drop a poop.
On this particular day I began to wonder how many people had been to that toilet cubicle. Being a leading TV station, many important visitors are interviewed there daily, from national politicians to international musicians and regional business moguls.
I began to wonder if the President had ever sat on that very same toilet seat I was using. I wondered whether the former Prime minister had on many of his studio interviews also made use of the room. What did they think of as they sat there taking a quick poop before or after discussing matters of national interest?
I couldn’t help but imagine, how do the big people fart? Do their farts sound more important than those of us mere mortals? Do they come out with confidence like pop! pop! Or do they come out with a posh sound like pssh….
I also wondered does their poop realize that these are important men with little time and therefore come out expressly or do they have to be cajoled to come out? And when they flush the poop does it go with the expected urgency down the drain? Or does it also at times linger there flush after flush, in defiance of our fear of walking out of the toilet only for someone else to walk and think you didn’t flush the toilet because of a non-relenting floater?
As I finished my business in that cubicle, I felt proud to have sat on a toilet seat that had been used by many great men before me. It is probably the closest I will ever come to many of them. Through that toilet seat I felt a kind of connection, a connection of one human to another, in the most basic of sense, in the most equalizing of way.
The toilet cleaner uses the President’s toilet. Put CCTV camera in there and I’ll bet you one million shillings he does. No problem with that if you ask me. When nature calls we must answer. We must breathe, we must eat, we must sleep, we must poop and we must die. It is the same whether you are President of a nation or sweeper of a floor. Nature doesn’t care how important you are.
Having run out of poop, I carefully washed my hands with soap and water, proceeded to exit and thanked the receptionist profusely for the gift of a toilet, without any embarrassment whatsoever.