Life Sat in the Slow Lane


‘Is anyone sitting here?’ Stewart Lee feigns inquisition. Is anyone sitting - concealed or camouflaged - under or over the rucksack he’s placed on the seat next to him? He mimes the motions of revelation… a look up and down, a clutch at the bag… no, it turns out no one is sat here. The steps to this conversation dance are well-known. We British are easily embarrassed when we take too long, make too much noise, take up too much room. We’ve even created a series of social tricks for not having to tell each other when we’re, basically, being rude and inconsiderate… ‘Are you finished with that? Are you listening to that? Are you sitting here?’

Actually, no I’m not finished with the gummed and torn copy of the Guardian (or Telegraph or Daily Start), I’m in-fact half way through - ok, a third through - a very interesting article. Actually, yes I am in fact listening to the Sunday Archer’s omnibus for the next five hours. Actually, my arse, my rucksack and my feet all need separate seats…

And, seriously, leave me alone in the loo. That’s you mum… ‘What are you doing in there?’ As if the more stress placed on the accusative, the more likely I am to relax and speed through whatever it is I’m doing - because pressure always creates calm. The question is always asked without any expectation of an answer… because no answer could ever be given - and it’s not desired. In theory, the answer is simple - I’m taking a piss, or a shit, or just a break from being an adult… or it should be. In fact, I could be doing anything. 

What am I doing? What are you doing? Reading. I’ve been half an hour… count out a Trainspotting-trip down the bowl into parallel universes of acid and bile or Franzen’s shitty sub-ego from The Corrections, Alfred the turd, popping up and dragging me into a symposium on repressive social structures under the romantic light of the cistern - I can’t think of any bowel movement that has moved me for that long. I’m reading. 

So are you. The game’s over… the glossy prints and show rooms and inspirational Instagrams might not have a decade pile of National Geographic’s piled next to the toilet brush - but your dad does. Well, mine does. 

Growing up, the loo - ours did in fact have a sign on the door ‘Waterloo’ - was referred to as The Poo House… at least, when I was in there, it was - and it was appropriate; I took up residence. Some people walk slowly, some talk slowly - I reserve my sprezaturra for shit… I’m in no hurry. And why should I be? It’s a comfortable chair in total privacy. Beyond the genteel euphemism of loos and lavatories and water closets: pure white china, clear water, and truth. The there’s no point trying to lie or cover the truth with potpourri or terribly-pretty scent diffusers - more, though, you shouldn’t have to lie… the toilet is a confessional with no sins. Priests listen to transgression of the divine, the toilet sees only humanity. 

It’s a place of learning, or self study - not something to rush. Take your time.

By James John, writer for Private Room.