Fifi Rhodes When you have to visit a public toilet, like I had to during a recent experience at a rural town – Omatjete – you usually find a row of men waiting, so you just smile politely and take your place. Once it’s your turn, you check for feet under the cubicle doors. Every cubicle is occupied. Eeewa! Finally, a door opens and you dash in, nearly knocking down the man leaving the cubicle. You get in to find the door won’t lock, but it doesn’t matter. The dispenser for the modern “seat covers” – invented by someone’s father, no doubt – is handy, but empty. You would hang your bag – in my case a heavy camera bag – on the door hook, if there were one, but there isn’t. So I carefully but quickly wrap it around my neck, pull down my pants and assume “The Stance.” In this position your aging thigh muscles begin to shake. You’d love to sit down, but you certainly hadn’t taken time to wipe the seat or to lay toilet paper on it, so you hold “The Stance.” Eeewa! To take your mind off your trembling thighs, you reach for what you discover to be the empty toilet paper dispenser. In your mind, you can hear your mother’s voice saying, “if you had tried to clean the seat, you would have Known there was no toilet paper!” Your thighs shake some more. I remember the tiny tissue I blew my nose on yesterday – the one that’s still in my pocket. That would have to do. You crumple it in the puffiest way possible. It is small, but can do the trick. Someone pushes open your cubicle door because the lock doesn’t work. The door hits your bag, which is hanging around your neck, and you and your bag topple backward against the tank of the toilet. “Occupied!” you scream, as you reach for the door, dropping your precious, tiny, crumpled tissue in a puddle on the floor, lose your footing altogether, and slide down directly onto the Toilet Seat. It is wet, of course. You jump up, knowing all too well that it’s too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with every imaginable germ and life form on the uncovered seat because You never laid down toilet paper – not that there was any, even if you had taken time to try. “You just don’t Know what kind of diseases you could get.” Polio maybe? By this time, the toilet is so confused that from no where t starts flushing, propelling a stream of water like a fire hose that somehow sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged in too. At that point, you give up. You’re soaked by the forceful flow of water and the wet toilet seat. You’re exhausted. You try to wipe with a gum wrapper you found in your pocket and then move out unnoticeably to the sinks. You can’t figure out how to operate the taps, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past the line of waiting Ovahimba and Herero men. All you notice is the shaking of heads. You are no longer able to smile politely to them. A kind soul at the very end of the line points out a piece of toilet paper trailing from your shoe. (Where was that when I Needed it?) You pull the paper from your shoe, plonk it in the man’s hand and tell him warmly, “Here, you just might need this.” As you exit, you spot your colleague, who has long since entered, used and left the women’s loo. This is dedicated to men everywhere who deal with public toilets in and around Namibian towns. It answers the commonly-asked question about why women go to the rest-room in pairs. It’s so the other girl can hold the door, hang onto her bag and hand her the Kleenex under the door!. Try this next time…Eeewa!
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