Porcelain Pilgrim: A question of kindness

Graphic by Kimberly Lam.

To all of those brave fellows who dare enter a gross and filthy washroom stall

Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that the status of this, your humble Porcelain Pilgrim is somewhat diminished. Seeing as I have already written on this washroom, I feel as if I have devolved from a critical reviewer of washrooms held to naught but the highest of standards, to a mere storyteller of somewhat humorous anecdotes. May Cloacina—Venus of the Sewer—have mercy on my soul.

Graphic by Kimberly Lam.
Graphic by Kimberly Lam.

This morning I had a class in the dreaded and dreary sub-basement of the Faubourg building. The building being a mess in itself, I usually try to avoid its washrooms, for they could not be much better. However, I was already running late and had something of a stomach ache. The experience wasn’t too awful, with the exception of the flush lever which was partially broken—one was required to pull up instead of pushing down on it. Fear not, for I used my foot (protected by my boot) to complete the unsavoury endeavour.

I proceeded to class, which went well, but near the end of it I felt my bowels beginning to act up again. I resolved to make another visit after class. 2:30 p.m. approaches, and there was the usual outpouring of students from every door. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a stall.

There weren’t many students in the washroom and were in fact multiple stalls open. I made for my previous stall, since I like to think I’m a loyal fellow, but I was disappointed to find that some imbecile hadn’t had the capacity to pull up instead of down and had left all of his waste and toilet paper all over the seat and in the bowl. He that doesn’t flush is also the one to leave a mess on the seat—the two vices invariably go hand in hand.

I made my temporary home in the stall next door and began to take the preliminary notes which inform this piece. A three stall set up, the one to my left was already taken and the other stall just described was to my right, leaving me in the middle. I saw boots enter the stall to the right and I assumed they would heel spin as soon as they perceived the state of affairs there. The boots did indeed turn, but to my great surprise they did not walk out but instead I heard the door close and lock. Is this happening? What does this person intend to do in that disaster of a stall?

I waited with bated breath, the anticipation doing nothing to ease my constipation, but such is the price of serious journalism.

The boots turned once more and I could feel disappointment bubbling up, was it simply another fool come to add insult to injury? To desecrate an already disgraced throne? I heard no splash. The boots remained pointed towards the pot for what seemed like ages. I heard the sound of toilet paper being rolled out, and then the honking of a nose being cleared. I waited on, staring at the boots, hardly daring to blink.

I heard a flush. Then the sound of more toilet paper. Had I misheard?

The boots turned slow, first one foot, then the other. I heard him sit. What’s this? What a paragon of virtue! This brave fellow actually cleaned up that virulent mess and made that stall usable once more. I felt a fierce pride for this unknown gentleman, and I nearly congratulated him through the wall but I stopped short, for social norms don’t allow for that.

I was about to exit when a flush came from the stall to my left. It went on and on, a thousand-year flush cycle it seemed. I could only imagine the horror of the occupant as he cringed in the corner of the cramped stall waiting for the violence of the whirlpool to end. I had a fear of the aerosol effect for years, and God, what a nightmare this seemed to me, even with the protective wall between us. I had had enough of this horrid place, and decided to make my own daring escape—I hit the lever and booked it.

As I was making my exit, I noticed the stall to my right was once again filled with unflushed urine. A shame, that hero’s efforts had gone down the drain. An allegory for the futility of kindness in an uncaring and septic world? Perhaps.

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