WARNING: Article may not be suitable for someone with food in their hands.
I had got this idea to write about the European/American toilet since my British Airways flight from Lagos, when the numerous signs in the airplane’s loo got me seriously thinking about British humour. But today, on return from the Loo in the Brown University Inn in the hallway of my residence, I threw away procrastination and set to put it down once and for all. The triggering factor was a little clean tissue paper left carelessly on one side of the toilet seat.
You see, I am from Nigeria. I shouldn’t have to say that again, but when I lived on campus in the University of Ibadan, none of the toilets in Mellanby Hall was ever good enough to sit on at any time of the day. It was horrible early in the morning. It was horrible late at night. It was triple horrible during the day when the many strange asses from all the neighbouring halls of residence, and even from the streets, came, bearing their little ugly gifts when no one was looking. The real reason for this trouble was of course the absence of stable power supply to pump adequate water to supply the toilets basins. Thus most of the time, the was a load of stuff waiting for any visitor to the place, which was never a pleasant sight. The cleaning women came around sometimes twice everyday, yet the loads were back there in less than ten minutes after they leave. So having learnt to do the bathroom business #2 without sitting on the toilet bowl since early undergrad, I immediately understand the sight of tissue paper lying on the bowl in a public toilet. The curious thing about this one instance however was that the bowl was neither dirty nor was the tissue, yet someone who had been there before me had been disgusted enough to lay the bowl with a layer of tissue to protect himself from the perceived dirt of a toilet clean enough for my Nigerian eye that has really been around. Quite curious, that. What do you think?
I have now picked out that scrap sheet of paper on which I had written my observations about the British Airways toilet, gleaned from their ubiquitous signs on the plane toilet wall. Here are the many of them, just the signs. But before I give them, let me tell you another joke from that little flight experience. Since my bag was already carefully stowed away in the upper locker, I didn’t have any sheet of paper on which to write, so I rifled through the magazine space in front of me for a scrap sheet. I found it, and it looked like an open ended envelope not used by anyone. Unknown to me, the looks of horror and amazement in the eyes of Jeffrey the American accountant who sat in the other seat beside me, and the air hostess on the aisle who had just given me a tray filled with American Airline food was because the little white “envelope” I picked out was used only in very specific circumstances.
As I examined it, they looked more horrified.
Then Jeff said, quite helpfully. “Erm, I think that is used when people are gonna be sick.”
And it all made sense. I had just taken a bite out of the food, and they were concerned that I might be ready to throw up any moment.
“No,” I replied, smiling. “I’m not throwing up. I just need a scrap sheet to write on.”.
She was relieved, and so was he. And Jeff and I went on to become great company for the duration of the flight, and who knows, I might take him up soon on his invitation for me to come back to Boston for a nice city tour.
Here are The Toiletiquettes, instructions/texts on the British and later American Airways toilet walls.
1. Discarding anything other than toilet tissue can lead to leaks and create a safety hazard.
2. Please use the trash container for anything other than toilet tissue.
3. 115v 60hz.
4. Crew call.
5. Tissues and cups.
6. No Cigarette Disposal. Push. Waste Disposal
7. Air sick bags. Panty pads. (And different kinds of toilet rolls. Shouldn’t someone tell the queen that I don’t need to wipe my balls.)
8. As a courtesy to other passengers, please wipe down the basin after use.
9. Freshorize: 2 in 1 handwash.
10. For your safety, this toilet is equipped with a smoke detection system. Federal law provides for a penalty of up to $2000 for tampering with the smoke detector installed in this lavatory.