Something incredibly awkward happened the other day when I inadvertently committed what is very probably an illegal offence.
I was at work – a local university - and went to the toilet.
There’s nothing unusual about that. I mean it would only be unusual if I’d didn’t go to the toilet at work.
Having said that, I did used to know someone like this – he refused to use the office lavatory for reasons never specified and drove home every dinnertime to use his own. Fortunately he lived a short distance from the office and not, say, 35 miles away, which might have been a bit disruptive to his work day. (‘Boss, I’m just nipping to the toilet – I’ll be back in an hour and a half, depending on traffic.’) This weird habit extended beyond the workplace. I once, very kindly, and going miles out of my way, gave him a lift home from a night out and, desperate for a wee, asked if I could use his lavatory. He looked me straight in the eye and said aggressively, ‘no’. I don’t think he could have been more threatening had I just asked to sleep with his sister. I hurriedly drove off lest he emerge from his property and attack me in manic fashion with his toilet brush.
Anyway back to work, where I went to the toilet and walked into the cubicle I always use – the second one along out of four since you ask (it’s always a distressing moment when this cubicle is taken as I consider it to be my own; in fact I sometimes have to stop myself knocking on the door and shrieking, ‘how dare you use my lavatory - show your face right this minute!’).
I lowered my trousers and underpants – I find it best to do this when using the toilet – and sat down, as you do, while mulling over the important things in life such as what cheese to buy from Sainsbury’s (I’ve always been a staunch Red Leicester man but have recently become quite fond of Double Gloucester; it’s a very tricky and difficult situation).
Then suddenly I heard the sound of the door opening and a large group of people entered. They were chatting amongst themselves and were – and this is something I found odd and a little disturbing – not men. They were women. In the men’s toilets.
I sat frozen for a long moment, trying to work out why a group of females had entered the wrong toilet.
Then, mentally retracing my steps – and realising with some horror that, firstly, I hadn’t noticed any urinals on the far wall, and, secondly, the toilets smelt quite nice – it dawned on me I had accidentally wandered into the ladies.
I don’t quite know how this happened, after all I have been at my present place of work for three years and have never before had problems navigating myself into the correct toilet. I can only put my quite gigantic faux pas down to the fact that it had been a very long day and I had spent the previous three hours penning a 1,500 word report on diversity in the workplace and was therefore jaded and perhaps in a daze.
The upshot was that I now found myself with my underpants around my ankles separated from four women only by a flimsy plywood toilet door.
Two of the women went in cubicles either side of me. I put my feet together, lest they look under the gap at the bottom of cubicle and see my manly trainers. I also attempted to stop breathing – a tricky and slightly dangerous feat - as I wondered suddenly whether I had manly breath and the very act of exhaling might give my identity away.
‘Are you out tonight Sandra?’ said a voice from the cubicle next to me.
‘Nah, Ryan’s coming round,’ replied another voice, presumably Sandra, who was sat in the other cubicle, so the two of them were effectively having a conversation over my head. ‘He’s bringing Dan, you know the cute one with the eyebrows and the tattoo of a dog on his ankle. We’re going into Leyland.’
A third voice – someone washing their hands at the sink – chipped in. ‘Not Dan who’s got the weird finger?’
‘Aw get lost Shaz,’ said Sandra. ‘It’s not weird, it’s just a bit bent from when he got it stuck in the dishwasher at Jamie’s party. You coming to Leyland?’
I was a bit surprised at this (not the fact someone was contemplating going out in Leyland; I mean sure it’s got its flaws but on the upside it does have an excellent Boots pharmacy) but by the fact they were having a conversation while sat on the toilet. Men, I can say with some certainty, would never do this. I can’t think of a single scenario where a group of men would discuss a topic while sat on the lavatory. (‘Oi, Bert,’ while wiping bottom, ‘what do you think of the resignation of the British ambassador to the US?’ “I don’t know Stan,” while doing hair in mirror, “can you stop talking and let me concentrate on sorting my fringe?”).
Annoyingly, after the women had finished on the toilet, they spent a further 10 minutes stood by the sinks nattering. Meanwhile I was sat rigid on the loo - as though involved in a really high-stakes game of musical statues - not daring to move even so much as my fight foot for fear I may get caught.
The moment they left I pulled up my pants and, after listening a long while to check there was no one else around, slid open the door and edged out of the cubicle like as SOS commando on a night mission in Baghdad. This was a key moment – if a woman walked in the toilet at this point I daresay I’d be hauled before the university chancellor, who would then likely sack me for some form of gross indecency, which would invariably lead to the story appearing on the front page of the local newspaper (‘Perverted lecturer SACKED for ladies toilet fetish!’) - which would be tricky to explain to Mrs Canavan.
I edged open the main door and glanced at the sign – sure enough it was the symbol for the women’s toilets (how the hell had I missed it?) I checked the coast was clear and, after a deep breath, sprinted away from the scene at full pelt.
In total I had been in the toilet for 22 traumatic minutes and was mildly sweating by the time I got back to my desk. Worst of all I’d not even done anything on the loo and still needed to go.
The moral of all this is never go to the toilet after completing a 1,500 word report on diversity in the workplace – it may lead to a catastrophic error.