So, speaking of work, you know – it’s just nice to be around so many people again. You see, recently I left my job in an office and I started, y’know, ‘working from home’. And it’s strange – the things you only get to appreciate once you’ve moved on. Sure, there’s the people of course, and the free stuff. But here’s a thing, okay, I found myself really missing the toilets.
Now let me just say, okay, that I’m not saying those toilets at work were nicer than ours at home. I’m not suggesting that anything – to my knowledge – went on there of an alluring nature. In fact, I have nothing good to say about them. No, see, what I’m missing – and what I was surprised to find myself getting all nostalgic about – is how much they became the noble and tortured struggle of my daily working life.
Every working day, countless visits – beginning with that overwhelming anticipation and anxiety on entering the work toilets – that suspense-thriller moment before knowing whether I’ll be unzipping languidly on my own – Lord of the Urinals – or if there’s already some weeing bastard in there who I’m gonna have to work around. One pounding heartbeat away from knowing if I’ve scored a happy piss. Best part of twenty years, you know, of the ‘toilet entry’ – who’s not gonna end up addicted to that kind of adrenalin?
Look, I’ll be straight with you, I have always been a little ‘pee-shy’ – you know – never been a fan of the communal visit. Which in a big organisation, you know, it’s pretty hard to avoid. And when I’m peeing next to other guys, I’ll hold my hands up – well, obviously, not physically, you know – I mean, I’ll admit that I’m never that comfortable. I don’t know why – and, hey, you’ll have your own theories about it – but I’m pretty sure it’s not like a straightforward dick thing – although, you know, someone’s ‘straightforward dick thing’, especially at work, is never really going to put me at ease. Angle that down a little, wouldya?
You know, I think it’s actually as much to do with the ever-present threat of The Toilet Fart. And that could be mine or anyone’s. That little accidental high-pitched parp that happens when all the respective ‘tensions’ are a little out, and something’s got to give – a little pressure off to maintain equilibrium. And, you know, no-one laughs, or even remotely reacts, at farts in toilets. No-one finds them funny, or worthy of note, because I guess they’re just too ‘of the moment’, too ‘close to the source’ as it were. You know, sniggering at a fart in a toilet would be like laughing at a very old Norman Wisdom having a wobbly fall. See, that’s just him actually falling over. The Toilet Fart? Just part of the business. The comedy context is all shot, see.
And then not only does it go comically unrecognised, The Toilet Farter also then attempts to deny it ever took place. With a cough. A single, short cough after the fart has happened. As if the introduction of a second sound will magically obliterate the memory of the first. A kind of ‘Edit-Undo’ of bodily noises.
Well, I say no-one laughs at that fart, but it always sets me right off. Of course in the peeing stakes it also sets me right back. If I was feeling awkward before, boy, thanks to your little toot I’m now completely off strategy.
So, like, how long is it okay to stand at a row of urinals – without peeing – before you need a plan? I think like an hour is my record. Well, you know, I’d got caught in some freak lavatorial traffic, maybe around a lunchtime. I was like that old couple you read about, in their Ford Fiesta, going round a roundabout forever because they can’t work out a way off. I couldn’t find that swapover exit point, you know. He’d finish up, but then he’d overlap on the other side – and of course it was like they all knew – like there was a bunch of them gathered outside, taking it in turns – because an email had gone round.
Well, in the end I – hey, it’s what we’ve all done – I figured I’d go for the sound effect. Yep – I started up the old vocal hissing – pssssshhhhhh – throwing my voice, you know, a real expert – little nuances of pitch and frequency as I imagined that stream hitting the Mint Imperials. Genius. And I kept that up for a while.
Of course, then I got a little complacent – you know how that goes, right? Sure, you’re all nodding – you’re faking your own piss in a corporate lavatory, and you lose that concentration and sense of purpose – well, I started looking around me – and by now I’m doing these kind of log flume noises… maybe adding in the happy shouts of children in the background, seagulls overhead – and then realised the bloke expertly peeing next to me was now just watching my whole pathetic and piss-less charade.
Well, I panicked. I held my finger out to him, and invited him to pull it. But he wasn’t having it. Remember – farts in a toilet… never funny. And he was a miserable boss at the best of times.
So – yeah – I miss all that. Felt like it was my daily adventure, you know. My own life-affirming battle against mysterious forces.
And sure, having listened to all this, I know what you’re all thinking – you’re thinking this is all just terribly sad… that surely, there must be some way of recreating those toilet scenarios away from work – of recapturing all that drama and tension and adrenalin. Well, trust me, I’m on with it. The neighbours are taking a while to get into it, mind. And some of the buggers have started pretending they’re not in.
This has been the second in a series of drafts for stand-up. For further context and stuff, take a look at My Imaginary Stand-Up, Part One
Women in the audience, you should know this – when you hear that hand-dryer noise through the adjoining lavatory wall – nine times out of ten that’s a male colleague of yours who has peed on his own leg. He’s drying it off, and it will eventually become invisible, but when you sit next to him at the afternoon’s meeting, and he’s getting all shitty about some forecast numbers, you just remember he’s sitting there with pee on the outside of his clothes.
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012