The Return and Impending Departure of Your Man On the Can

The Return and Impending Departure of Your Man On the Can

From Thursday, I shall be pooing in America for a month, and I thought you might like to be kept informed. I will endeavour to keep a somehwat regular log, but it has been a while since my last deposit here, so to grease the skids, I shall first attempt a review of a local loo which I used for the first time recently.

During a moonlit stroll to kick the wall at the end of the Salthill Promenade, I found myself caught somewhat short, and was thus drawn to the bright lights of the public bathrooms beside the Blackrock diving board.

The 20cent entry seemed a very fair price to pay for some privacy and relief. The last time I attempted to do my business outside, midway through the proceedings, I adjusted my footing and stood on an anthill, and in the ensuing chaos, I shook my sandal off into a distant thicket in Norway. To clarify — I was in the wood in Norway at the start of the incident, and am not suggesting I possess superhuman leg-shaking strength and ought to be signed immediately for Liverpool football club, though I’m not saying that would be a bad idea either.

This was, however, the Ryanair of toilets, and included no toilet paper. Not having had the foresight to bring with me a newspaper, dock leaf, or copy of Knight’s Atari*, I had no choice but to cut my losses and venture to the next booth. Having spent my last 20cent piece, I was forced to part with a full euro coin to enter, and as I did so, I wondered whether this were perhaps some sick psychological experiment. This booth, however, did come replete with paper, so I did not end up taking out a second mortgage on a house that I do not have.

The booth had a motion-sensor activated light, to save the planet, and this promptly flicked off when I was evidently standing too still while creating a paper shield for the toilet seat, one begrudgingly dispensed sheet of two-ply at a time. Quite what manner of bewildered jig was expected of me to keep the light on for the duration, I am not fully sure.

In other time-sensitive quirks, there was a countdown timer on the door directly opposite the toilet, which you could watch as its fifteen minutes ticked down, in case you needed a little extra pressure to move things along. This is not a complaint — a visible timer is preferable by far to those public toilets which seem to choose some arbitrary and unannounced length of time to spew you ignominiously back onto the street.

Indeed, as I watched haphazardly and hurried, the timer display flicked off and started counting down from 15 again. It is quite possible that I was being awarded five fifteen-minute slots for my euro, but a part of me wondered somewhat gleefully if I had somehow managed to hack the toilet’s software system.** Sadly, I could not afford to hang around to find out, as I suspect my date must already have been getting impatient waiting by this point.

As I made my way to the sink, I noticed there was a slot near the ceiling for disposing of your old needles and razor blades, and at a more accessible level, a button labelled “Reset flush”. I did not press it, but I was curious. If any of our intrepid readers would like to investigate, do let me know how it goes.

The sink itself was one of those comprehensive units built into the wall, where you theoretically hold your hands in place as the unit sequentially administers liquid soap, water, and hot air, so all you have to do is rub your hands together. This one, however, seemed defective, as the water came so immediately after the soap that I did not have time to spread the soap around, and then straight after the water came soap again, and so, I found myself trapped in this vicious cycle of wet but really, really clean hands. In the end, defying the sign on the wall which mocked “Leave hands in place until dry”, I gave up and wiped my hands on my trousers and hoped my date would not get prematurely handsy.

 

In conclusion, I would not say the toilet is particularly glamorous, but it makes up for it in convenience. Convenience if you are out on the Salthill prom, that is, as opposed to in, say, France. The privacy is very good — provided you remember to lock the door, and conclude your business in a timely fashion. Certainly compared to American public restrooms, where, if you are lucky, the area between your knees and your shoulders is not as available to the general public as if it were featured on the nine o’clock news… but I shall no doubt moan about that further in the near future.
The facility is as reasonably clean as one can expect of one used by the general public. There isn’t really much to write home about in the way of entertainment, but my cell signal seemed fine, had I needed to call for assistance or play Angry Turds (I thought I was being clever, but it seems this game actually exists… ah well). Ergonomically, the toilet was a little high for comfortable squatting, and set very close to the wall, which is fine so long as you don’t think about everyone else who been squashed up against it before you.

Overall, I would give this loo 6.5/10, and would readily recommend it to friends if they were passing and were caught short. Maybe bring some toilet paper with you.

 

*Feel free to vote for the book of your choice, and I can update the article as necessary. Please appreciate, also, how I avoided the obvious cheap joke at the expense of certain maligned university courses, for fear of alienating our literate readership.

**You may scoff, but it would not be a first for me. Last summer I rescued a lady locked in a public bathroom by a Norwegian motorway (that is to say, beside the motorway, rather than to imply the motorway had malevolently captured her and imprisoned her thus — Norwegian motorways are lovely), using only my NUIG library card and a pair of sandals.

Peru Poo Two

Peru Poo Two

OCTOBER 8TH
This is one of the other bathrooms in the apartment we stayed in. As you can perhaps see despite my inferior photography skills, it was substantially nicer than mine. Still, given that I had needed to unblock the loo, it was probably better that my bathroom was in an out-of-the-way corner of the apartment.
Interestingly, the flush on this was different to that in what I shall perhaps overly-affectionately refer to as “my bathroom”. The latter was similar to what we are familiar with, with a flush from just under the rim of the bowl, whereas this one pushes the jet of water from the bottom of the bowl. Further, there was no set amount of water per flush – it stopped as soon as you stopped pressing the handle. I did not try to see what would happen if I kept the handle pressed until the toilet overflowed. This system has the advantage that it seems a little better at moving along whatever is lurking at the bottom of the bowl, but it seems incapable of dealing with that last little sheet of paper that remains floating on the water’s surface.

This toilet was located at a bus station in Lima, and damned right I wanted to use it before embarking on an 18 hour bus trip to Arequipa. It wasn’t a particularly glamorous toilet – no hook to hang my coat on, for example – but nevertheless, there was a queue, which moved along pretty speedily.
Apparently, you are supposed to bin toilet paper in Peru, rather than flush it. See how this diagram conveniently exhibits both methods. The claim is that Peruvian toilets and sewage system can’t handle the toilet paper, but I don’t believe that, and will continue to flush.
Binning toilet paper is all well and good if you’ve only used it to dab yourself dry, or to wipe after a dry and traceless shite, but if you have a runny-stool-covered quarter roll of paper, no one’s going to want to have to sit beside that stewing in a bin beside them.
I stumbled across this impressive site which lists what one ought to do with one’s used toilet paper in every country of the world.

The toilet on the bus was not actually so bad – rather like an airplane toilet. Fortunately, I chose a moment when the bus was stopped at a light or something to make a pee, because the journey was not smooth, and I nearly fell down the aisle when the bus took off again as I exited the bathroom. I do not know how others managed to stand straight enough to urinate into the tiny toilet. It was requested that the loo only be used for urination, but with our seats at the very back of the bus, beside the loos, we were fairly certain this was not adhered to.

This next loo was in the bus station in Arequipa. You can actually see some of my pee there in the urinal. I didn’t particularly think you’d want to see that, but there was no obvious flush mechanism. Who knows, perhaps this will help us break into the German market.

We made our way to our apartment, and were greeted by this rather decorated toilet. Obviously I blocked it. I think if I ever design a toilet, it will feature some sort of bar or blade above the waterline, so that any particularly large stools will be split in twain on the way down, and will then flush easier. It would also diminish splashback. This toilet was not so difficult to unblock – a couple of bins full of water (the only convenient receptacle I could find was the bin in the bathroom), the blockage finally made its way onward toward the local river, or the water supply or whatever. The inconvenience of dealing with the blockage was not great, though I did feel some guilt over all the water I was using, in this sun-scorched, arid town. Still, needs must…

Anyway, I fortunately subsequently contracted diarrhoea, so the toilet has not been blocked by any of my many subsequent visits. I was laughed at for packing a roll of toilet paper in my luggage, since everywhere we would stay would have some, but it has come in useful. I also purchased some baby cream in a local supermarket to aid with absterging. At least, it seems to be like baby cream which is suitable for arse-wiping. With unfamiliar names and an unfamiliar language, I could not be entirely certain what manner of unguent I was buying to apply to my anus – a dangerous enterprise. I first tested some on the skin of my arm, and suffered no disastrous consequences, and it is now some eight hours since I first applied the lotion to my arse and I am not yet in agony, so I remain cautiously optimistic in that regard.
The diarrhoea inspires less optimism – I have decided to bail on the rafting trip down the Chili river which we have booked for this afternoon, and it remains to be seen what happens tomorrow, when we are due to take a 10-hour bus-trip to the city of Cusco, with its promises of altitude sickness. If the diarrhoea has not cleared, I fear I may have to opt to stay in Arequipa for the week, leaving my brother and father to go on ahead, and foregoing my chance to see Macchu Pichu.

Peeing on Three Continents.

Peeing on Three Continents.

OCTOBER 1ST
I peed on three continents today.* It all started with a bleary-eyed piss in the disabled toilet of the Galway Coach station. I like the toilets there – they are relatively clean and, presumably correlated, accessible only through a 40cent turnstile, keeping out the proletariat. The regular coin-accessible toilets were closed for cleaning, however, meaning I had bought a bottle of Sprite for change and for naught.

Upon exiting the bathroom, I stumbled onto a bus and ended up in Dublin Airport. They had a toilet there too, so I peed in it. It was an underwhelming experience. That isn’t even my poop smeared on the bottom of the toilet bowl. The first soap dispenser, tap, and hand-drier all failed to work, but not in any spectacularly dramatic or entertaining fashion.
Inspired by a tweet** from the wonderful Hannah Fry, I did download the BBC Four Pandemic app, which sought to study how quickly a virulent disease might spread. To do my part, I promptly boarded a flight to Peru, via Canada.

I refrained from using the facilities on board either plane, because I was trying to remain hydrated. I do not know if that is how hydration works. I wish I had studied a more practical science than maths. Some of these equations would be significantly more useful if you knew what values the variables represented.
The first public bathroom in Toronto I tried to use seemed to adhere to America’s policy that cubicles in public bathrooms need to be very public indeed – a regulated minimum of a two-inch gap between the door and its frame, so that you can see if the person using the toilet before you is circumsized, and walls that begin at the knee, so you can show off your new shoes to the entire row of cubicles.
The second bathroom was better – note the proper wall, and the rail for parkour.

Eventually, my father, my brother and I made it to our lovely Airbnb in Lima. Here is one of the three bathrooms:

It was a little small, and lacked a sink, but it was the one beside my bedroom. Sadly, after over a day’s travelling, it was unable to meet my demands, and so, very sleep-deprived, I found myself faced with an issue even Your Man on the Can’s How to Unblock a Toilet‘s recommended first course of action was unable to rectify. In the end, I added some warm water*** to soften the stool overnight. In such instances, a little dish-washing liquid can sometimes help to lubricate the sides of the bowl, but in the event that a caretaker or plumber had needed to called, I didn’t want to risk having to explain, without any Spanish, why the blocked toilet was full of suds.
In the morning, it still would not flush, so I found something long and disposable (an empty kitchen roll holder) and broke up the blockage therewith. That did the trick, and the toilet flushed without further ado.

When my father noticed what I was doing, he advised that, in future, using some of those antibacterial baby wipes, as opposed to normal toilet tissue, would reduce the quantity of paper needed, and thus reduce the likelihood of blockage. Of course, I already knew this, and it had not been the paper causing the blockage, but it was good to hear that the apple had not fallen so very far from the tree.

Somewhat related – if any of you have somehow not yet come across the fantastic Bristol Stool Scale story, I highly recommend, without even a hint of reservation:
A Daily Mail article.

 

Love,

Your Man on the Can

Addendum:
The Pandemic app’s “survey” was uninspiring, though I am curious to see what results are yielded. Most disappointing of all, perhaps, was that the “Distance travelled” options only ranged up as far as “100+ km”. What a waste of an almost 12000 kilometre trip! 😦

 

*I am relieved that I had no cause to use an incontinence pun there.
**A message posted to all of one’s followers on the social media site “Twitter” – a bizarre platform which somehow managed to survive and maintain popularity from 2006 to 2019, despite its sole “advantage” being an imposed 140-character text limit, which the majority of its users circumvented by posting multiple messages at once, or half an unhelpful sentence followed by a hyperlink. It served as a useful source of anti-epigrams and a soapbox for infinitely-recycled opinion on the one topical news item du jour.
***Closer to boiling than is recommended, in fact, but I added it very slowly and carefully so as not to risk cracking the ceramic.

 

 

Eco… eco…… eco…………

Eco… eco…… eco…………

Okay, so the log of the American trip fell through, but that was largely because I failed to stay regular, and then just lost momentum. Henceforth, I shall aim to make one deposit here a week. Largely because I’m putting in a serious effort to get rid of these Knight’s Atari t-shirts, and I want there to be something relatively recent on the site. Would you like a tshirt? Write us an article or do us a doodle or something.

Anyway, this weekend just gone, I stayed in a small ecovillage in Tipperary. It takes four trains to get there from Galway, where I live, so it’s not somewhere you’d just pop by. My reason for being there was that Knight’s Atari’s very own Jorge, of “Cooking with Jorge” infamy, was getting married to a lovely lass, from whom Jorge is probably keen to hide Knight’s Atari’s existence. The wedding was lovely, went with only one major hitch, etc. More importantly, there was a compost toilet in the ecovillage. I didn’t use it, because I had a perfectly satisfactory loo in my room, which had this amusing poster on the door:

However, I thought that you, dear reader, might be interested in the composting toilet. It was located far away from any dwelling, probably with good reason. There were a stack of black bags behind the shed – presumably full of “compost”, but I did not venture close enough to confirm that. The idea behind composting toilets is, for those of you with little imagination, to indirectly recycle your poop into food. Humus, specifically. So if you think that stuff people dip their carrots in tastes like crap, you could be right. Composting toilets generally use very little water, which is important in places where water is scarce, like Ireland. An average toilet flush uses about six litres of water, and involves passing along an intricate system of sewers and pipes like Super Mario, before finally being flung out into the sea. So there is certainly some logic to instead storing your poop in a bag and using it to fertilize your lawn.
                                                                                                  
This particular composting toilet was of the sawdust variety – where you add sawdust to your deposit to help aerate the store, increase the carbon to nitrogen ratio, and reduce potential odor. There was, indeed, no smell in the loo, though I suspect this was more through a lack of use than anything else. I would imagine the novelty of a composting toilet wears off fairly rapidly, and then you end up using it just to make a point. And personally, whenever I try to bring a political agenda into my defecation, I find it detracts from the relaxation of mind and sphincter that should generally be associated with pooping. Some people seem to persevere though.

                                                                                       
So the floor is dusty and covered in sawdust, but the facility seems relatively hygienic apart from the lack of soap and a sink, and apparently an occasional lack of toilet paper. They have also helpfully nailed the toilet seat shut, because we’ve all had those days, when you’re genuinely concerned about whatever you’ve just dropped down the toilet trying to crawl back out.
                                                                                                
Just as I was exiting the facility, I decided to take a peek behind the door, and what did I see?

Another toilet!
Sitting directly facing the other one. While there is a small chance that they only have one toilet available for use at a time, to allow the compost room to breathe, or that the two toilets can perhaps be used simultaneously as urinals, it is far more entertaining to imagine two dedicated ecovillagers sitting there, staring into each other’s eyes as they did their bit for the environment. That requires true devotion. I have given it some thought, and I cannot think of one person with whom I would wish to be in that situation – not even ScarJo* or Stevie Wonder**. Who would you sit and shit with?

Someone I mentioned it to speculated that the second toilet was for use in emergencies, but I can’t imagine being ensconced on the throne and hearing someone yell “I’M COMING IN – I’VE GOT AN EMERGENCY!!”, or the succeeding events, would endear me to anyone.

I have not rated a toilet in a while, but…

Lighting: Natural light only.
Ergonomics: Poor
Aesthetics: Excellent
Capacity: 1 or 2.
Privacy: That depends.
Cleanliness: 36
Phone signal: Okay, considering it was Tipperary.
Post-use feeling of righteous superiority: Excellent.

In conclusion, would not recommend except as a potential date with that really hot smelly vegan chick from your yoga class.

*Scarlett Johansson – 21st century actress of unspeakable beauty. Famed for such roles as Natasha Romanoff in the Avengers series of movies, Molly Pruit in the third and worst of the seventy-six “Home Alone” movies,  and most notably, kicking off the career of co-star Bill Murray, with the opening shot of her arse in the otherwise unremarkable “Lost in Translation”.

**21st century musician – famous for his odourless flatulence.
Nice shoes…

Nice shoes…

Another door, but I visited no facilities today to which I will not return, so you’ve missed nothing. This brief remark is on the obscenely large gaps under cubicle doors in America. The gaps between the door and the frame are also extra-large, which is good news for all of our readers, who are perverts. I feel that comma is appropriate.
Our Berkeley accommodation last year, had, for some reason, a cubicle which you could see right into if you stood at the urinal beside it. I’ll try to locate a photo.
I should possibly have included something here for scale, but you’ll have to trust me – this is a really big gap. I always thought they were ridiculous, until that time last year when I could not unlock the cubicle I was in. Had brute force not eventually worked, I would have had to call for help or crawl…

On Hooks

On Hooks

Not all my photos will be of doors – but these highlight an important issue which many people seemingly forget when kitting out their toilet cubicles. The first picture is a loo door in Dublin Airport, the second in Heathrow, and the third in San Francisco. The third picture is less satisfactory than what I was trying to photograph, so I will focus on the first two pictures. Can you spot the difference?
I’ll give you a minute.

Well done!
Yes, there are at least two bags on the hook in the right picture, while in the other, those same bags are presumably balanced on my head, because that hook isn’t going to hold anything with any degree of reliability, and especially in an airport, your bags must go absolutely everywhere with you and there’s piss on the floor.
Some loos provide no hook at all, and are unworthy of review.

Home Is Where The Fart Is

Home Is Where The Fart Is

This is it.
On the other side of that door lie seventeen days of latrinal uncertainty.
Here I am, in the comfort of my own bathroom, the lock on the door purely symbolic, preparing myself for a voyage and a lack of reliable bathroom breaks.
For your pleasure and disgust and erudition, I will once more turn my hand to chronicling some of the pit stops during my travels. It has been a while, but perhaps it is like learning to ride an elephant. I regret not keeping a better log of last year’s sojourn across the ocean; the bears, the breasts, the fire, the blockages, the great escape…
Perhaps, if I risk falling short of my 150-word quota, I will share these anecdotes with you.

For now, I sit here and ponder the same question every traveller must before embarking on a long journey – when did I last poop?

– Your Man on the Can