I hopped the pond to visit a friend who was going to school in Scotland. We met in London.
The four days prior to my UK trip, I was away from home for a work conference. At the conference I shared a hotel room with a co-worker. During the day, the only bathrooms around me were public bathrooms. I get a bit gun-shy in those circumstances. The time between returning home from the conference and the red-eye flight to London was about 5 hours. There was no time to fool around. I had laundry to do, packing, litter box cleaning, etc. Not a lot of time to take care of a bunch of crap, including crap.
By the time I got to London, there was much I had to express. Also, I was joined by cousin Flo as I hopped the Atlantic. At this point, I knew my reluctance to use a public toilet for releasing the hounds was diminishing. I could not do it on the plane. The chaos of the airport was enough diversion to make me forget there was a storm a-brewin’.
After all the car rental bit and figuring our way out of Heathrow and into London, my urgent business became top priority. And there it was: an unsuspecting public restroom near Westminster Abbey. Embarrassed, I warned my friend as we went in that she might not want to stick around, and I offered to wait until she was a safe distance away from the scene of the crime.
Being the good, old friend she was, she said not to hold back and she understood.
It was a lot. A lot. And cousin Flo’s luggage.
As it’s happening, my friend and I talk about it, at one point joking that I’m going to clog up the toilet and how awful it’d be if this spilled over or didn’t flush.
I finish up and reach to flush. This is not a normal toilet; it’s one of those cool, wall tank thingamajigs. This was right up there with seeing a red phone booth. Excitedly, I yank the chain. Nothing happened. Yank again. Nothing. My friend is still in the bathroom so I ask if there’s some trick to this? Not really, just yank and hold for a little bit. I keep trying and no go.
Panic starts. I cannot possibly leave this for some unsuspecting stranger. I’ve seen a lot of assaulted, abandoned public toilets and am always horrified that someone would leave it. I am that person who, in most cases, mans up and flushes vandalized toilets to get rid of a stranger’s mess. Admittedly, there have been a handful of times when it was too heinous for me stomach. Because I am so disgusted that people do this, I never want to be the culprit.
This toilet did not care at all that I’ve set this standard in my life. It was not cooperative.
Despite my friend’s best efforts to talk me through the process, we were both convinced I was, at that point, incapable of figuring out how to flush this toilet.
Then she said it: let me in, I’ll do it. I was horrified.. but I saw no other option. Leave it behind and step all over my principles or accept my friend’s help? It took her a few minutes to talk me out of the stall so that she could come in.
She promised she wouldn’t look at the bowl. She did anyway. I can’t remember if it was “Jesus” or something more British like “for fuck’s sake,” but something came out of her mouth to indicate she’d seen IT.
It turned out the toilet must have been broken before my rearward assault. For the short period of time she could stay in the small space, my friend couldn’t get the toilet to flush.
We were defeated. We washed our hands very quickly and as we were leaving, the first other visitor came walking in. I imagine all blood drained from my face right then. My friend and I looked at each other and walked out as quickly and quietly as we could, until we were outside. Then we burst into giggles.