“THERE’S no panic like it – except maybe getting your head stuck between the railings of a bannister.” So a friend told me a while back.
What was she talking about? Why, getting stuck in a bathroom, of course. And although my most recent extended toilet break lasted only a few minutes, I could see what she meant.
That incident took place in Garrymore GAA grounds, about an hour before the start of the O’Mara Cup final. In the end, all it took was a firm shove and I was free.
(When I say ‘firm shove’, by the way, I mean just that – no overworked club official or member of the emergency services was involved, and no damage was done to the door.) But just enough time elapsed for some moderate terror to set in.
At least on this occasion, I had my mobile phone, was fully clothed and it was half three in the afternoon. This put me at a considerable advantage vis-à-vis my last locked-in-a-bathroom experience, which occurred in Cork.
Then, it was the middle of the night and I was staying in an unfamiliar house, so I decided not to bother alerting anyone. I was confident that, like the government without Finian McGrath, I could manage.
Fifteen minutes unsuccessfully jiggling with the lock suggested otherwise. So I began to examine my surroundings. One small window. One towel. One bar of soap. Four rolls of toilet paper. A few bottles of shampoo.
What would Indiana Jones or MacGyver do with these tools? Probably tie the rolls of toilet paper together, attach them to the shower rail, and fly out the small window to the ground below, all while picking off a dozen bad guys with a handgun. But I was no Houdini. Besides, I figured, I’d never fit out that window.
I briefly considered kicking the door down. But that was a drastic step and anyway, I wasn’t sure how my bare feet would stand up to the challenge. I chided myself for not joining a tae-kwon-do school. Made a mental note to do so if I ever made it back home.
It was around then that I became vaguely aware that I was freezing, and began wondering how long I’d been in there. Twenty-five minutes, perhaps? Apparently Japanese toilets now include a digital clock telling you how long you’ve been in the bathroom. They also clean themselves, spray pulsating water to massage your backside, and even come with a hand-held remote control. At that stage, I’d have settled for a door key.
Briefly, my fear reached momentous proportions. “I’m going to die here,” I whispered to myself. “Jesus, what a way to go!” Whoever heard of someone passing away in the jacks? Well, there was Elvis. And Lenny Bruce. And Edward II, stabbed from beneath as
he answered a call of nature. Maybe starvation or hypothermia wouldn’t, I reflected, be a bad way to bow out after all.
It was time to get a grip. I re-examined the door for the millionth time. One shove later, and eureka! The key turned. I did a little dance of delight as I made my way onto the hallway – and almost fell down the stairs.