Something a little different. As this blog has become more review-oriented, I thought I would include the first review of something that I can remember writing:
REVIEW OF THE MALE TOILETS IN UNIVERSITY BUILDING (1993)
There are some factors in life that are constant and, as such, become more than a reassurance of the day-to-day existence we go through. They tend to seep into our conscious till we find ourselves needing them, as part of our routine. Such a place (or facility, if you must) is the second floor men’s toilets.
As a regular user, I felt it my duty to give a review of this anal Xanadu, in an attempt to tell the world of its rightful place in the hall of fame. What appears a drab and ordinary convenience at first glance has, after prolonged exposure, transformed into an infinitely more interesting repository for various excretory products.
As you enter, you notice the almost vestigial coat hooks that serve as an introduction to this netherworld. I ask you: when was the last time that anybody saw a lab coat (or other protective garment) hanging from their taunting appendages? Apart from the fact that nobody wears lab coats, no one is that unhygienic that they would bring their chemical-soiled garment into the clean zone that is the lavvy.
The next thing that hits you is abundance of electric light. It continues to amaze me on my bladder-emptying sojourns on the weekend that somebody has gone to the effort of switching off the source of illumination to the most functional room in the entirety of the building, which has no source of natural light. Why? Who is that petty? Who thinks that they are doing the lab a favour by saving them that much on their electricity bill?
The next most striking fact is the presence of a large mirror, covering a good portion of the far wall. Admittedly, when the male postgrads notice the most recent influx of undergrads, there is a rush to spruce themselves up in order to grab the attentions of an unsuspecting and naive young student. However, did the architects or designer really believe that the young, stalwart men who daily fight the turmoil of boundary-breaking research are such vain airheads? Or was it solely put there for the dalliance of some of the lecturers? It is always kept very clean, has no cracks, and informs you if there is some lurking worker in one of the cubicles when you are about to squeeze that particularly puss-laden pimple that has developed during the work period. It is a good level for self-inspection, when washing your hands, being able to discover the aforementioned zits, look up your nostrils for creeping snot, or simply checking out how incredibly gorgeous you are. There is but one question – why is there a ledge? Just below the mirror is a piece of wood along its length, a reason for its existence I have yet to discover. (It does, however, hold the supply of spare toilet roll, which is always handy for the poor student who has forgot to go to Sainsbury’s and knows that the weekend has a suspiciously hot curry in store for him.) I am not sure; perhaps there are some people who, caught short very suddenly, actually have something in their hands, which they need to place down somewhere before they can use the toilets? I find this hard to believe, seeing how one simply looks forward to the mere expectation of entering there, that one would never burden oneself with luggage or other cumbersome extras. The only item I have ever seen on this ledge is the ‘hyacinth’ can of air-freshener, which, going by the smell of the location, is either never used or doesn’t work very well.
The most commonly used facility is the urinal – we men are extremely lucky in the fact that we can easily facilitate the excretion of urine by simply standing and aiming. It’s almost fun, except for the psychology of unwanted eye contact, but that is the source for another discussion. The urinals are functional, if a little on the low side, obviously taking into account the above-average size of the biologist’s manhood. Constantly stocked up with those bizarre little blue cubes that remind me of a tuppenny sweet I could obtain from the corner shop as a child, they do not give a lot of splash back, which is a good thing, especially in the summer when wearing shorts, but are very bad at draining, providing entertainment when they full of water – going for a slash then reminds you of urinating at home where you can piss really hard to create lots of bubbles. The four of them are pretty much the same, except for the nearest upon entering, my personal one of choice, which has a slightly different drain hole, making it even worse for the ‘pretending to be at home’ wee.
Under the pretence of civilisation, we then have the option to wash our hands, even though urine is sterile if some did accidentally splash onto our hands. The sinks which, in my opinion, number too many and could have been left aside for more urinals, are kept very clean and provide tepid to lukewarm water upon request. Slight aside – I never have liked the use of green as the colour to indicate cold water on taps. I believe that blue is the international standard, and would recommend the switch to comply with EC regulations. The one real joy of washing one’s hands is to be able to use the soap. Not the actual washing itself; the soap is an unpleasant colour, and does absolutely nothing to clean the hands. However, when it is washed off, the colour is such that it makes it look like your hands were completely covered in grime and muck, and that it was a very good idea indeed to wash your hands. Such a psychologically affirming cleansing agent is a wonderful ego boost, and I am glad to keep it such. Even though there are too many sinks to choose from, there are only two towel dispensers. I can’t understand the logic behind that, but never mind. They are comfortable enough, with their rough cotton, scrub-your-hands-dry approach, and someone, in their infinite wisdom, has seen fit to fix the one on the left that used to get jammed when one would roll too much out, and you had to use the trick of lifting up and then down and up again in order to get some dry, clean material out.
Question; why is there a bin in a toilet? Never have I seen such an out-of-place accessory in my life. What is it there for? Is someone supposed to come out of the cubicles, soiled toilet paper in hand, suddenly discover it when going to was his hands, think, ‘How stupid of me, I forgot to flush this’ and instead of putting in the toilet, he decides, ‘Oh, here’s a bit of luck, a bin; just what I need’. Somehow, I can’t see it myself.
The cubicles. If one ever needed a ‘fortress of solitude’, then here is the ideal location. The three small rooms, provided for the daily evacuation of waste food in comfort, are the place to look for me if one is difficult to locate. They are all serviceable, although my favourite has to be the first one as you enter the room. The middle cubicle has too much light, and the seat is situated in a slightly awkward spot in the confines of the space, making you feel uncomfortable whilst shitting. The one on the end seems old and knackered and has a door that closes with too much of a slam, announcing your intentions to the world. The first has the correct level of illumination to allow meditation and is close to the door so you can hear if someone has just come into the room when you are exerting too much. The seat is comfortable, and the walls are surprisingly devoid of talentless graffiti, usually expositing the size of a previous user’s genitals, or that a particular football team are great, or that so-and-so is a ‘bender’.
If the statisticians have worked out the amount of hours we spent sleeping, watching the television and eaten, then they should also take into account the amount of time spent taking a dump, as I am sure that I would ruin the averages.