When I was a kid, Dad would often go missing. He just had this way of not being there. It wasn’t for days or weeks or anything, just precious minutes that would sometimes creep into an hour. It wasn’t the drink that carried him away or the comfort of other women, he was simply seeking solitude from a the stresses of modern life and raising a family.
“But where did he go?” we’d wonder. Turns out he went where men have been going for hundreds of years. To the place of porcelain privacy, a source of solitude on a seat.
He went to the toilet.
There is something inexplicable about the solitude a toilet provides a man. Women are known to be very clinical when it comes to the lavatory. Like cats they are simply in, cleaned up and away, no lingering about. Occasionally the stalls of public toilets and workplaces act as Caroma confessionals hosting tears and outpourings of negative emotions , but never is this space viewed as a place of peace in the way we men see it.
Men retreat to the restroom for peace, reflection and solitude like monks on a privy pilgrimage. They have been doing this for nearly as long as modern plumbing has allowed. Technology and the toilet go hand in hand (excuse the visual). The toilet itself was a technological breakthrough for its time (1596) when it was first invented by John Harrington. His contribution to the world lives on today through the nickname given to his famous piece of flushable furniture, ‘the john’.
Today when any Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s or Ringo’s sit upon a john, they are more than likely continuing this relationship between technology and toilet. It is reported that between 75% to 98% of us use smartphones whilst on the toilet. That means that nearly all of us are doing except those people who still haven't upgraded from their Nokia 3310- mainly because it has Snake on it, which they like play on the toilet.
Be honest, how many of you now are reading this while on the toilet?
I never understood why my Dad would spend so much time in there? It was a time before phones, he would need to prepare with a good paperback, crossword puzzle book, copy of Time magazine or his preferred choice- that day’s paper. However now that I am a Dad, I understand.
People talk of the shed being a man’s cave and that may well be so, but the toilet is a man’s throne. Here he can rule of the problems and concerns of his life as Lord of the Loo. He is a king on a throne, away from the nagging children and wife who await on the other side of the door. Like his own Narnia if the book has been called the Lion, the Witch and the Water Closet.
This King’s court is a narrow one metre square space decorated with ribbons of cloud-white tissue paper rolling forth like a tiny non-red carpet. It’s air perfumed by a mix of supermarket aerosol air refresher and other aromas that could act as insect repellant.
Almost nightly I find myself escaping to this place, grabbing the odd 20 minutes to myself to catch up on that days news, reflect on my 5 year plan, balance the budget, work on my poetry or just listen to my heart. And what is so wrong with that?
Your cries of disgust are misguided! Fools! Take away this ritual from men and say goodbye to so much that is good in this world! For it is in this space that countless novels, screenplays, songs and emails have been written, scientific and not-so scientific problems cracked, emotions explored and dreams dreamed.
So next time you knock and the toilet is occupied, don't enquire as to how long the occupier will be.
Simply bow and say “I beg your pardon, your majesty.”