Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Soft, Strong and Very Very Wrong

I have a high-powered meeting to go to. Usually my meetings are powered more at the level of saying hello to the greengrocer, or stroking a neighbour’s cat, so it always comes as a surprise when, about once a year, I have to shave and practise smiling and shaking hands. The meeting is with a top company about a secret new project and it could mean some work.

I am preparing to set off when I realise that I could do with going to the toilet. I have been learning to synchronise my urination with the Polish builders’ cigarette breaks, mainly because I don’t know the Polish for “I’d like to use the toilet please”, and I don’t fancy translating it into international sign language. At best they might bring me the bill, at worst they might think that I was putting on some kind of a skit.

However, I can feel that this toilet visit has the potential to develop into something a bit more time-consuming. On the one hand I want to be able to concentrate in the high-powered meeting without all sorts of uncomfortable rumbles going on, but on the other hand my bathroom has no window, the extractor fan has been disconnected while the builders tile, and I really really don’t want to create an unpleasant working environment for them. They might take it as grounds for constructive dismissal and decide that things weren’t that bad in Poland after all.

I could go when I get to the high-powered meeting, but I don’t think it would look great if the first thing I say is “Hi, nice to meet you. Can you just give me 10 minutes? And I’ll have the crossword if no one’s done it yet.”

My third option is to go somewhere en route. But going to a pub or cafe might necessitate buying something in order to use the facilities. And whilst I am the kind of idiot who can make a great big fuss about something as simple as going to the toilet, I am also very mean with my money. A ridiculously large amount of my brain is therefore devoted to remembering locations of free toilets in any area of town that I might conceivably visit. I could probably have used this brain power to learn another language. Maybe even Polish.

Aha! I can go at the station on the way. I am going by Underground anyway, so it won't cost me any more. But what if they don’t have any toilet paper there? Sitting in the high-powered meeting would then be as uncomfortable as if I hadn’t been at all. So I take a roll of toilet paper with me in my bag. That way I have planned for every eventuality. A free toilet visit, with my own soft toilet paper, then I am comfortable to proceed to the high-powered meeting...

Where I open my bag to get out a notepad, and show everybody present that I like to carry a roll of Andrex with me.