Not only did I risk a criminal record and incarceration in Australia as a result of a pressing need to relieve myself but I have also found such a simple function nearly disastrous elsewhere too.
A prime example was when I travelled to the north of England to meet my future wife’s family for the first time. I knew it was going to be difficult anyway because they viewed anybody born south of Sheffield with acute suspicion and prejudice. I, having not even been born in the UK let alone Yorkshire was not considered human by them let alone suitable marriage material for their daughter.
I had to make a good impression so I rehearsed the things I would say and the complements I would pay to her mother. We arranged to make our arrival gradual by stopping off first at her sister in Malvern so she could phone ahead and say how nice I was. Or that was the plan anyway.
We arrived in Malvern to a warm welcome which immediately put me at my ease. However, shortly after arriving I felt the need to pay a visit to the smallest room in the house. They had kids and their main toilet was full of their stuff so I was led to the newly decorated en-suite bedroom and invited to use that one and, having paid the right complements about the decor and carpeting I settled down.
How can I explain this? It was a ‘big’ visit is all I will say. Having finished I pulled the flush and went to the basin to wash my hands. Suddenly in the mirror I saw water. The toilet had blocked. There was water and everything else pouring onto the carpet.
How do you go to someone you have just met and explain that you have made their toilet overflow? Well I had to and mine host spent the next hour or so with a coat. hanger, mop and rubber gloves clearing things up. The news had spread by the time we reached Judith’s parents and I saw the look of fear on their faces when I asked where their toilet was. Relations deteriorated even further during our short stay.
You get toilets in all shapes and sizes as you travel around the world on business and many are strange indeed. Like the rotating, self cleaning seat in Athens and the Tokyo Karaoke bar whose loo had cowboy saloon type doors so anybody walking by could see all of you sitting there apart from your groin area. Made it hard to concentrate especially when having a wipe!
Then there are those hotel toilets they insist on placing directly behind the door. I came back to my hotel from a late dinner in Paris not that long ago and went straight into such a bathroom. I hung my jacket on the hook behind the door and, after my bath went to bed. On opening the door the next morning I found my jacket had fallen off the shallow knob on the door and dropped into the open toilet. My first thought was 'had I pulled the handle before going to bed'. Thankfully I had and after 45 minutes with the hotel hair dryer I made my meeting although I did get some very funny looks.
I got some even stranger looks a few weeks later. I had got a job with the AA and was meeting a new and very formidable senior director at their Bristol regional headquarters. He was an ex military man and liked everything in its place including more junior visitors. On arrival some of my colleagues arranged a buffet lunch for me which was very kind. We loaded our plates from the table and sat on chairs to eat from our laps. Unbeknown to me a portion of butter was stuck to the bottom of my plate and had transferred in a greasy mess to my trousers.
Oh no I thought. What am I going to do? 10 minutes away from meeting someone even fiercer than my mother-in-law and my trousers were a mess. I shot into the nearby gentlemen’s toilet, soaked my handkerchief in scalding soapy water and rubbed the stain as hard as I could. It mainly spread the problem but then worse was going to come. There were no linen or paper towels but I needed to get it dry.
All they had was a wall mounted warm air hand dryer. I could not take my trousers off in such a public place so I tried to think of another solution. I found out that if I put my dry leg over the top of the dryer, an elbow on the sink next to it and a hand gripping a sink tap I could raise my body off the ground and dangle the wet trouser leg under the dryer. I was in the process of adopting this position when the door opened.
A very distinguished man walked in. he stopped mid stride, his jaw dropped and he muttered ‘what the hell?’ before turning on his heel and walking out. When I finished I went to the regional director’s office and met the great man. I had met him a few minutes earlier. He was the man who quite literally had nearly caught me with my pants down!
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