Bathroom humour is very British. But it is a place for high comedy. There are a whole lot of unwritten laws in toilets, public toilets. About noise. About how long you can stand at a urinal and not pee. About keeping your eyes fixed on the wall ahead of you. Well, they go on. And they are in tune with the spirit of Chaucer.
There were two vestibules in the washroom for those inclined to sit. One was large, equipped to handle the handicapped. Paul McGregor was reluctant to go into the large chamber. But the other was being used. And he had to go. And go allows for no options. So Paul made a decision. If it can be called a decision. Once in the larger room, Paul relaxed. He looked around. What a palace. This was the life. All the rooms should be this large. A guy could stretch out here, relax. They should put a television in here. Maybe a small refrigerator with refreshments. There should be a window with a view. Fit for a king. Paul dropped his drawers and prepared for blast off. But when he sat down on the throne a thought seized him. What if a handicapped person came into the washroom? Were they expected to wait? And what if the person in the smaller chamber left before Paul was finished? Would the next person entering the room think that Paul had jumped the cue? Weren’t tickets given to people who parked their cars in the spaces saved for the handicapped? Was this any different? If the person occupying the other stall left, was Paul expected to get up and move? The stress was too much. Paul couldn’t go.
The party in the second room appeared to have the same problem. Paul could hear his struggle with his bowels. Like a woman giving birth to a baby. Push! Paul wanted to scream. But he was in no better situation. Traffic had come to a halt for both men. And then the unexpected happen. The man in the next cubicle began to sing. Opera. Italian. He had a strong powerful voice. Maybe he was a professional. And the singing had its desired affect. In no time there was the sound of splashing, the roll of toilet paper. Like railroad ties rattling. The readdressing of trousers and the zip of a zipper. Zip. And finally the flush. Like gargling. The man stepped out of the cubicle, washed his hands, patted his face with a few drops of after shave. Which was water. And departed. A happy man.
Now Paul was alone. He couldn’t move to the other stall. That was certain. He might get half way and all hell might break loose. What if he sang? Paul knew he had no voice but it was worth a try. So he began to sing. A country and western song. A song he had loved since he was a kid. His father used to play it. He thought the singer was Johnny Ray. He remembered how his father used to join Johnny in belting out the tune. The song was called Rawhide. Paul began, Roll them, roll them, roll them, keep those doggies rolling, Rawhide! A smile came over Paul’s face. His bowels began to loosen. Paul cried out, keep those doggies rolling,
The washroom door shook. Paul’s eyes went to the lock. Unlocked. The door rushed to open. A man in a wheelchair sat waiting for Paul. He looked angry. There was a cigar in his mouth. Paul had just reached for the toilet paper. And remembered that there was no smoking allowed in the building.
“What are you doing in here?” the man in the wheelchair cried.
Paul blushed. Looked around for a savior.
“I…” he began but could not continue.
“Isn’t it bad enough that we are disabled without people like you taking advantage of…”
“You can’t smoke in the store,” Paul blurted out.
The man in the wheelchair took the cigar in his mouth out of his mouth and looked at it.
“It’s against the law,” Paul added. Pulled up his trousers and with as much dignity as he could manage, walked past the man in the wheelchair and over to a sink where he washed his hands. And then noticed. The room was out of paper towels.