We human beings have some strange habits? Take for instance the toilet training. I mean why do we always have to go to the toilet wherever we go? And don’t tell me you don’t, because I can bet that everyone that has been somewhere new this weekend can tell me what the toilets were like and describe them better than any other thing about their Bank Holiday weekend away, or day trip.
Mandy was a bugger as a child, even though we followed tradition and did the ‘toilet before we go” routine, you could put a no-lose bet on her wanting to go to the toilet wherever we went. There is this inbuilt curiosity of all children under the age of 50 as to what the toilets are like. Now I don’t remember why we did it, but I was the same, everywhere I went I could guarantee that my bladder would decide in unison with every other tourist, shopper, sightseer, that I needed to pee (sorry go to the toilet). The queue was always the longest ever, there was never any toilet roll and I would never wash my hands properly. I never trusted that gungey lump of soap with the black bits on it that lurched around the edge of the brown stained sinks with the rusty taps. Luckily the younger ones of you are blessed with a public awareness of hygiene in this day and would not understand what I’m talking about.
So there we were, at a food festival, it wasn’t a big festival, but big enough to need pennies and pounds to spend, and I don’t just mean the normal weekly shopping allowance. Wrap it in a fancy wrapper, put it on a table with a foodie telling you about the process they use to create artisan bread, toffee vodka or cheese and we will buy anything, or is that just me. We love our cheese and think nothing of paying over the odds for a rich deep overpriced mature cheddar replica. And a Gin and Lemon cheese, yes it exists, and whisky and ginger cheese and sticky toffee pudding cheese. I do draw the line at Christmas pudding cheese, it just seems wrong.
It wasn’t that far away and we had done the “toilet before routine”, yes, we still do that, but Mark needed a wee when we got there so being a well-trained toilettiere I went as well. You never know when a tiddle may be upon you, especially at my age. Unfortunately, it is the worst thing I could do. Once those flood gates are opened its not that easy to shut them. I know this is a fact for many women, as the conversation is held all over the world. Even in Turkey, although it may have got lost in the translation that night and the booze. But go into any ladies’ toilet and you will hear a sigh of relief followed by, “That’s it, the flood gates are open”, or something along those lines. Now I’m not privy to the men’s lav, so I wasn’t sure if they have the same conversations as us. It seems to be a silent operation, according to my husband. And yes I asked.
“They were tidy.”
“Yer surprisingly clean.” Mark replied.
This is going to be a very dry conversation despite the topic. I’ll carry on.
“Didn’t really need to go, but went anyway, just in case.” I added.
Now I’ve never understood what the ‘just in case’ is all about. I knew where the toilets were, we were standing in front of them. I had taken extra toilet tissue, folded neatly and place it in my back pocket, just in case I had to return and they had run out. I was programmed to do that by my dad. I could see that the place we were in wasn’t that big. I’d been to the toilet before we left just in case we couldn’t find one on our way or when we got there. Honestly what was I thinking. It was a food festival, of course they would have toilets, but here I was like a five year old going like a good girl out of habit, not need.
“I’d hate the flood gates to open half way around and have to come back.”
Mark gave me that, ‘please explain look’ so I went in to the whole thing about once a woman goes, they have problems holding it back, hence flood gates.
“And you have conversations with other women in the toilets?” Mark asked.
“Erh yes, don’t you talk to the men?”
“NO!” Mark looked shocked.
It was then that it occurred to me that women have conversations in the toilets at two points, if they are having to wait for a cubicle to become free and after the fact when they are washing their hands. I was unsure how I had misrepresented the whole conversation in the toilet thing. Did Mark think that we all sat in a row and shouted at each other through the cubicle walls. Although to be honest I have been known to do that. I used to make Mandy sing to me whilst I was in a public toilet, that way, she couldn’t go wondering off.
Not something I would have thought about, men standing in a row at a urinal discussing the flowery smell of the hand lotion as they shake their bits. And that’s when I found out that men don’t have conversations in bathrooms. Or do they, but just don’t admit it, after all they wash their hands when they have finished, don’t they?
The habit is universal, and I have decided that maybe a bit weird, for instance one girl at school would have to go dead on 1pm every day. As the bell rang for afternoon lessons she would dash off to the loo, everyday being late for her class. We didn’t think much of it and thought that it was a case of ‘just in case’, that is until we went on a school trip. No bells, no lessons to get to, just a museum full of fourteen year old school girls, and there it was, five minutes to one, the look of panic crept across her face. Actually, it did, it sort of started at the corner of her mouth on the left side. As her lip drooped her cheek flushed and her nose screwed up, her eyes widened and she just stood silently, then five minutes later, she was off, through the crowd and down the stairs and gone. Deb and I just looked at each other and said “One O’clock, toilet break.” Mrs Pink our escort for the day assumed that there had been a major disaster until we explained, after we had stopped laughing enough to calm the traumatised teacher down. The last thing Mrs Pink needed was an emergency with thirty pubescence girls on her hands.
It’s such a habit of mine that it has become a joke, as Mark does the, “Have you been to the toilet”, bit every time we go out. Just like my dad used to do, only one day my father in his great wisdom decided he was going to embarrass me in front of my friends.
The girls turned up, now as far as a sixteen year old girl goes I was what you might call a Tom boy and my jeans and t-shirt being clean and without holes was a smart look. Barbara and Lindsey had decided this was an opportunity to impress the World, make up, dressed up and hair up. My father would start the pre-leaving check with, “Go to the toilet just in case”, and as I left the door he would go through the check list, key, purse and coat. As I grew up things changed. Key, purse, cigarettes. Key, purse, cigarettes, ID. Keys, purse, cash card, cigarettes, mobile phone…
At sixteen it was just money and key. I would pick up the cigarettes at the local shop, dad didn’t know about those back then, or so I thought. As I came down the stairs, dad started the rhetoric…
“Now have you got your key?”
“Yes dad,” I said as I pulled the chain out from around my neck with the front door key on it.
“And you have the spare money for the phone box, in case you need to call?”
John stood behind the girls and I hadn’t noticed him before, the realisation that he was there made me blush. And there it was…
“You’ve been to the toilet and you’ve got clean knickers on?”
“Dad!” The blush turned into a raging fire storm that ran rampant through my body. The girls laughed and it seemed that John felt slightly embarrassed at my embarrassment.
I could have killed my father but do you know something to this day, I still go to the toilet before I leave the house, and yes, I still make sure that if I’m going out anywhere special I always wear my best knickers. Habits huh.