In honour of April 1st I decided to re-post the most popular post from my old blog, from the murky era of 2006. How to use a toilet. Enjoy. Just watch out for the push-through.
We live in a world of excessive information, where every single product, no matter how simple, has instructions (place this toothbrush in your mouth), warnings (do not place this toothbrush in your neighbour’s mouth) and a “help line” to call (Yes, hello, can you tell me something interesting about my toothbrush please?)
However there are two things, things we use every day of our lives, that come with absolutely no instructions whatsoever. I’m talking, of course, about toilets and toilet paper.
Where are the informational videos, the “how-to” books, the evening courses? Are we born knowing how to use triple-ply, or do we get secret training during gym class, or learn from the older boys or from farm animals?
Well now the ignorance will come to an end with this definitive guide to toilet use. So wipe down the plastic ring, pull your undies way past your knees, and let’s get defecating!
1) The reading material. Now when I feel a certain pressing need, the first thing I do is to find something to read. I will hop from foot to foot in agony while scanning the bookshelf for something light, simple and distracting. A great toilet writer, I find, is Bill Bryson. So let’s open up Mr. Bryson’s “Notes From A Small Country” and away we go!
2) Pick a toilet. At home this tends to be no problem but in public it can be troublesome. The public toilet checklist has a few points to consider:
- Hook on the wall to keep bag or jacket faeces-free – check!
- Less than one meter of space under the door – check!
- A seat devoid of unidentified stains or piddle – check!
- Distracting ambient noises to hide farting or grunting – check!
3) In a quiet toilet, you may be worried by your “splashing” or “plopping” noises. A good way to minimise “plop” is to tear off some paper and drop it in the bowl before your business begins. This creates a handy “silencer” and people passing by will wonder what you are up to in such exquisite silence.
4) Also a quiet toilet may be a little too quiet to allow you to apply the necessary pressure. Some good “masking” tips here are:
- Stick fingers in ear and make “hmmmmm” noise
- Turn on water as covering fire
- Flush repeatedly and hope for noisy re-fill
- Cough or clear throat in a very loud and obvious manner
5) So then, your flank is covered and your business is underway. Good for you! However, if there is a rapid build-up of solid matter in the bowl, you will get a sudden and powerful stink, not so good if you are at home or in the office! A good trick here is the supplementary flush—getting rid of the first batch, and its smell, as quickly as possible, and then settling down to enjoy the rest of the process. Nobody will care if you flush a few times, and the next person in will thank you.
6) Now the last of the brownies have emerged, and its time to think about the wiping. First, though, you will need to give a little shake, to dislodge any clingers. Then reach for the toilet paper and tear off as many sheets as you think you require.
Note: there are many schools of toilet-paper use. Some people go through a roll of the stuff per day, whereas others split the two-ply paper in two thinner sheets to stretch it out until the summer. I generally take 2 or 3 sheets at once, so lets deal with this method first.
Simply fold the sheets once or twice to make a larger, thicker sheet that covers the front of the hand. Then apply it to the area in question with a quick wipe, applying just a little pressure.
Those who prefer many sheets might take the “wraparound” method, which is simply to wrap the entire hand with paper, front and back. This is very wasteful, especially in these resource-troubled times, although you can redeem yourself by using both the back and the front of the hand before dropping the paper in.
There is also the “ball” method, which consists of ripping off as many squares as you can fit in your hand and crushing them into a fat, bulging ball. Not a very efficient way to wipe, and shame on you if you use it!
If you have a water source nearby, you can dab some water on the paper to improve the cleaning effect. But beware, not too much or you risk a push-through (see point 8)!
7) An interesting question emerges about the wiping process – should one wipe towards the front or towards the back? Ladies tend to avoid wiping forward as it can cause some unspecified disease, but I find that the forward wipe gives a good deal more effect. May I suggest that the men-folk wipe back a few times, and then finish off with a forward wipe, with a spot of water for that all-day fresh feeling!
8) Push-through can happen to the best of us, and nothing raises a shiver like a sudden finger poking where it should not poke. But breath deep, and do not panic, you can recover the situation! Finish the wiping process with a “wraparound” and keep the offending finger covered until you can get to a source of soap. Do not, under any circumstances, pick your nose at this point!
Apply a thick layer of soap to the finger and leave it sit for a minute, without any water. Then rub it in well with a paper towel and rinse. There may be a slight, lingering odour but as long as you avoid shaking hands for the next hour or so, nobody will be any the wiser.
9) It happens that you begin the process and then find that no paper is available. There are several things you can do in this situation, in ascending degree of disgustingness.
First check for paper towels in the vicinity; they are coarse and sandpaper-like but will do in a pinch. If there are none then check carefully through your bag and pockets for napkins or tissues. If this comes up blank, try a few sheets of paper from a notebook or paperback – old school, but does the job! If this fails, then you are in a bind! You can either choose to sit there until you air-dry (never guaranteed) or else choose an item of clothing you could do without and tear it into strips. I find that socks are a good option – soft, easy to tear and easily replaced!
10) Now it’s time to flush. This should be simple enough, but once in a while you will get a floater. This is the determined little chap who will just not go under, popping up over and over like Jaques Costeau. A floater cannot be flushed in the conventional way, and must be dealt with carefully. Remember: a floater in somebody else’s house can end a relationship as sure as a dick on the dinner table!
So here’s what to do: tear off a few sheets of paper and drop them carefully over the floater. Give them a minute to soak in, and then flush once more. The floater, with its extra ballast, should now go under without any further struggle.
If this fails you will have to dismantle the floater with the toilet brush and flush down the pieces. And if this fails, all you can do is drop in enough paper to hide the little guy, and hope the next customer does not notice.
11) Sometimes the flush will not work. This always happens at parties, especially when a queue is building and you have just had the chilli con carne. But panic not, you can always perform that most ancient and complex of rituals: the manual flush!
Simply take the biggest container you can find and fill it up with water – rubbish bins are recommended, but even a plastic bag will do. Now pour as much of the water as quickly as you can into the bowl, making a big “schlunk” noise. Now repeat until the little monsters have left the building! And, as a bonus, you can have a chuckle by telling the next person in line that the flush is out, and watch their face squirm in anguish.
12) Now we have left the area of actual toilet use and are entering the realm of etiquette. You will not want to make the next toilet guest uncomfortable, and nothing does this more effectively that skid-marks. You know what I’m talking about – those long underwater streaks that a skilled forensic scientist could use to work out the gas content of what you had for dinner.
In short: do not leave any skiddies! There should be no trace of your passing, so grab that toilet brush and give it the old one-two.
Toilet brushes can be troublesome. First there is that small pool of liquid that they sit in, otherwise known as “poo soup”. Then there is the fear that bits of fecal material will climb up the brush, across your arm and do a little dance on your tongue. Then there is the problem of “flick” when you extract the brush and its worrying, flexible prongs. But no matter – if you skid, you must brush!
I generally give the skid a good old scrubbing and then flush. Just before the flush is done, I extract the brush and swirl it in the flushing water, making it hopefully a bit cleaner, and then replace it for the next brave soldier.
If there is no brush, you are in trouble. A determined stream of pee can sometimes wear down a skid-mark, but if this fails you can make a temporary brush by wrapping a pen or other long object in a tight wad of toilet paper.
Only the bravest among us will actually put their hand in the water and scrub manually, but if you want your place in heaven then sometimes this must be done. Just remember to wash that hand well afterwards, ok?
13) And finally, everything is done and clean and sparkling, but don’t go just yet! There is still the problem of “linger”, that troubling scent in the air that tells the next person in that you have some bad intestinal disease.
So open the window, if there is one, and fan the air like a madman to circulate it out. If there is some air freshener, for God’s sake spray it now! Otherwise you will have to poke around in the bathroom cabinets for something scented that you can spray – deodorant, perfume, even hairspray. Failing this, you could try mouthwash, sprinkled around in a hearty manner or else toothpaste smeared liberally around the walls.
If there is absolutely nothing to be done, then you have to brave it out. Simply exit the bathroom, close the door theatrically, wave a hand in the air and grin insanely while you say “Listen friend, do not go in there!” And then you leg it as fast as you can to the other end of the party and put a bag on your head.
So there you have it, a lifetime of toilet tips condensed into one easy-to-use guide. Now get out there, eat something dark and spicy, and make us all proud!