And this is why we can’t have nice things


When I’m at the office, I spend a lot of time in the toilet. This isn’t a confession of some kind of digestive disaster; it’s just that because of the overzealous air conditioning, it’s often the only warm space in the entire building. I’m sure it’s not that healthy to sit in a warm, humid environment that’s scented with urine, but there are various ways that the toilet is made more unpleasant, perhaps to speed me back to my desk.

There’s a sign on the paper towel dispenser, admonishing you not to try to flush paper towels down the toilet. I didn’t think this would be a problem. Toilet paper goes down the toilet, paper towels go in the bin once you’ve dried your hands. Or so it would be in a rational world.

Our office is clearly not a rational place, or not inhabited by rational men. (I can’t speak about the women, because I haven’t been into their toilet to gather any evidence. That sounds more creepy than it should.) Several times the toilet has been blocked with paper towels. I don’t understand why.

Is is a semi-dirty protest by aggrieved employees? Surely they’d realise that only the plumber and the office manager are put out by their actions, rather than the board, say, reconsidering how the company is managed because of the blocked toilet. Could it be because some poor chap ran out of toilet paper and had to use the next best thing? Unlikely, because the toilet is rich in toilet paper. There are bales of the stuff, ready to hand. I’ve never been in a situation where the roll was even a quarter away from running out. Could it be ineptitude? Was I just brought up in a different way to my co-workers, and they were educated to believe that everything goes down the toilet? Should we have shelled out for some sort of mega-crapper that could chew up and digest paper towels? That seems like an unfeasibly complicated solution to the problem of people putting things in the wrong places.

The towels aren’t the only things in the wrong places. When I go into the toilet cubicle and shut the door, if I look forward I see three pieces of snot that somebody has stuck to the back of the door. Another dirty protest, perhaps? Or is somebody marking their territory, making it clear that the toilet is theirs? Am I lacking the requisite skills to identify my co-workers by the products of their nasal cavities?

I’d wipe the snot off, but although my job can sometimes be frustrating or embarrassing, I never signed up to clean up the bodily emissions of others. I would have thought with the huge amount of toilet paper that if you had to pick your nose, you’d put it into a fold of paper and drop it down the toilet you’re sat upon, but again, perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps the door-snot-wiper thinks that only paper towels should be flushed down, and snot should stay above the waterline. It’s curious that although the toilets are often hosed down, so that every surface is covered in not particularly clean water, the snot has remained impervious to any assault. Perhaps an experiment is being conducted.

Not everyone washes their hands. Apparently when there’s a bird-flu scare on, the percentage of men who wash their hands goes up a lot. To about fifty percent. Think about that for a while. Now consider why I’ll never type on somebody else’s keyboard in this office, or ever shake hands. Then again, the hand soap in the toilets has been getting thinner and thinner for some time, as (to save money? because somebody really likes dilution and believes they can make homeopathic soap?) the soap has been watered down further and further to delay replacing the bottle. It’s been refilled in the last week, but with dishwashing liquid. I don’t know if I’m overly germophobic, or if they should be considering an anti-bacterial agent. You know, in a room famous for bacteria. Not that more than half the men would use the soap, of course, but it would be nice to think it was there.

Finally, the toilet seat has been broken; it’s loose upon its hinges. I’m not the sort of person to slide my buttocks back and forth across the seat, so perhaps I shouldn’t be concerned by this instability, but again, it seems worrying. Are my co-workers clumsy? Have they had such immense and painful motions that in clenching their muscles, they broke the thing they were sat upon? (Which suggests that there should be a campaign to institute higher-fibre diets in my office, but I’m not sure how I go about suggesting that.) Or is it just some sort of dreadful ineptitude?

I’ve been to toilets in other offices. They’re not all covered in snot, with broken seats and clogged piping. Is there a polite way to mention this to the people responsible?


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