Bright Idea for a Tight Situation!

By Thilak S. Fernando

There is nothing more embarrassing than having to control your muscles, divert your thoughts completely away from what is bugging you, and having to take to your heels on a crowded street, if you were to get the urge to go for a call of nature! If you happen to be in the middle of London town, the mere thought of it will make you bring your heart into your mouth ! You begin to shiver first, and then start to perspire, and with such frightening feelings, being in a most desperate and hopeless situation, you will not even be able to walk straight, apart from making a brisk walk in search of a pub even, and that too, if your urge has come within pub opening hours !

Up till very recently there were not many public toilets in this great city for an emergency, except of course for the odd one or two inside main British Rail stations. You would be so lucky to find even trees in this concrete jungle, except of course if you are close to the Hyde Park or Kensington Park, surrounded by rich flora and fauna. If you try one of those Sri Lankan pranks in a park ( Haavek Allanna), a British bobby will come and take you by the scruff of your neck and charge you for indecent exposure in a public place! It, therefore, is not a very comforting thought at all to travel in central London, especially if you are the diabetic type or you happen to have a weak bladder!

In this highly technological era, the Brits have conquered many a sophisticated electronic gadget, automatic ticket barriers at railway stations, disposable condom dispensers or even the parking ticket machines which accept upto £20 notes and calculate the parking fee and return the correct balance. But a nasty new device lurking in the streets of London now which will bring about a rampant ' technophobia' could be regarded as the ' Super-loo'.

These new super toilets are hideous cylindrical tin boxes, which play music all the time and snootily scrub themselves down whenever a desperate human being dares to enter. They are supposed to be clean, cheap to run and a simple way to provide a twenty-four hours service, say the Borough Council authorities.

Although I have seen a few installed at prominent place in London, nobody that I know of have ever used one. Can you really blame themÉ? No, because there is bound to be a big element of ' technofear' with these strange looking monsters you see sometimes in science fiction films. The mere thought of your pressing the wrong electronic button installed in them causing something dreadful to happen will give you an instant mental as well as a biological constipation! Most people are terrified of being locked up inside, leave alone in a toilet, but the authorities assure the public that the doors of these monsters have an automatic timing device and they spring open of their own accord after a certain time.

Soothing music may serenade you in this ' little room' to calm your nerves, similar to the Japanese version of playing tapes of bubbling water so that no body can hear you, but you will be concentrating more on the thin corrugated wall between you and the rest of the world as you would be convinced that all those who stand at the bus stand next to this super loo could hear you, loud and clear!

People are naturally worried about the extra-ordinary exposed positions they seem to be in, when they are in side a toilet and, it will not be fun at all if the timing device of this Super-loo activates and doors spring open when you are half-way through your job! especially if the Super-loo is stuck on a traffic island, in front of all the cars and pedestrians waiting to cross at traffic signals! Therefore, it is only fair to say that no one would ever dare to step inside one of these Super-loos unless they are absolutely desperate.

Borough Council authorities, who install these or psychologists who are our gurus for various human problems, may try to convince the public saying that ' technophobia' or this fear and loathing, is perfectly normal. But the Brits are still a privacy conscious lot when it comes to visiting the loo. Although it was only a few years ago the subject was never even mentioned in public, today it is becoming apparent that people are all afraid of making a fool of themselves, especially in front of total strangers when they are in rather a ' tight' situation.

Despite its disadvantages in the eyes of the ordinary general public, it is increasingly apparent that London will have to get used to Super-loos sooner or later, and the wretched things seem to stay put for a long time; rest assured its only as a last resort the most intrepid or desperate member of the public will go boldly into this unknown territory.