No toilet talk in columns, journalists are admonished. Meaning, no smutty remarks supposed to make readers laugh. They don’t. Same with comedians who believe lavatorial jokes bring the house down. They don’t.
So what gives with the subject here? After all, they serve a vital purpose and to equate them with smut is a bit much, but it probably refers to our humbling body functions. My dad enjoyed saying, ‘Even the royals gotta use them – with crown an’ all’.
Toilets, however, are constantly in the news, especially when they’re unavailable to communities. And the ones that are there, like long drops, are dangerous, smelly and unhygienic. A number of children’s lives have been lost in these primitive commodes.
There’s another side of the argument giving one howling bowels. For some weird reason toilets are targeted by none other than the users. Seats are smashed to smithereens, cisterns ripped out, leaving no water to do the job. Even pipes supplying the water are wrenched out of walls.
Public toilets in particular are soft targets. Once functional parks with clean ablution blocks are now left unsightly wrecks. So it’s a civic matter.
Schools too, are not exempt. Ask any principal how many times toilets are vandalised, and the cost of replacement. Who are to blame? Can only be the users. So it’s a lack of education. Ha-ha. Sorry.
We are not alone facing this malodorous problem. My globetrotting friend Sarel 2+3 brought me a copy of the Hong Kong issue of China Daily, printed on high quality lily white paper, nogal.
A headline on the leader page caught my eye. As you are aware, these ‘editorial’ pages are earmarked for the more serious, pretentious stuff, so I was surprised to find this one dealing with, yes, toilets.
Evidently Hong Kong has a major issue with dirty public toilets. And the writer makes no bones about who the culprits are. The headline says it all, “Civic-mindedness key to clean toilets”. He talks about campaigns, starting in nursery schools, to make folk aware of the importance of clean, functional toilets and to cultivate hygienic habits. One such campaign is called “happytoilets@pre-school programme”. There are also ‘eco-assessors’ who grade public toilets. There are also ‘eco-assessors’ (undoubtedly wearing gas masks) who grade public toilets. The article ends with notices in city toilets. For the ladies: “Remain seated during the whole performance”. The gents: “Stand closer. It’s shorter than you think”.
Don’t laugh. It’s a serious matter and we must take care lest we’re caught with our pants down. Oops! Too lavatorial? Sorry.