I'm inspired by a post over at Conortje's blog, which is always good for random, hilarious and conor-ish tales. The post reminded me of an incident that happened to me in a public toilet, a few years ago.
Now, if you are a regular here you are probably already drawing your own conclusions as to what your beloved TBNIL was doing in a public latrine. But no, I tell you, you judge me too harshly. It was nothing of the sort. And how was I to know he was a police officer? ha ha. No seriously, nothing of the sort.
I was actually in Bamako, Mali. Why was I there? On holiday of course. Doesn't everyone go to Mali for their holidays?
Anyway, there I was and had been for a couple of weeks, enjoying the sights of the desert and the delights of the Malian diet - i.e. 'big grey fish' and 'poulet bicyclette' and the ever present giant mango, which is truly the devil's fruit. Horrible.
And it was the delights of the Malian diet that got me into the situation in the toilet in the first place.
It had been a strange couple of days - the day before, the streets had been full of protestors and burning tyres blocking the roads. It turns out the education department had run out of money and so had closed the schools and sent the kids home - leading to protests from angry citizens.
The day I left for the airport, the streets were eerily empty - it seems that yet again government cuts had led to closures. This time it was the prisons that had run out of money and they had just shut up shop, releasing all of the inmates in the general populous. Everyone stayed home that day....oddly enough.
Anyway, I'd had a bad stomach brewing for a few days and the smell of burning tyres and a pretty scary undercurrent hadn't helped. I arrived at Bamako airport for my flight to sanity (well, CDG at least) in the early evening. It soon got dark and the plane was delayed.
As midnight approached, there was still no sign of Air Afrique and I now desperately needed to get to a bathroom. I'd put off the dirty deed for as long as possible, hoping to be able to 'go' on the plane instead. The fact that I saw a 767 toilet as a luxury surely tells you how bad the bathrooms were at the airport.
To say the bathrooms were bad is the biggest, massivest, hugest understatement in the world. Poor plumbing, no cleaning regime and a lack of sense of direction or ability to aim amongst recent customers had left them in a sorry state. And to make it worse, the toilets were of the hole in the ground variety.
So, leaving dignity and self respect behind, I headed into the toilet. Crouching amongst the vileness, I let nature take its course. And then the lights went out.
Yes, there was a power cut.
I was squatting over an open cess pit, trousers round my ankles, with germs on every surface - in the pitch black.
I had nothing to hold onto to keep my balance and pulling up my pants and getting out of there was not an option. I knew that the walls and floor were filthy, so no chance of feeling for the loo roll. I just squatted there, wanting to cry.
Ten minutes later (it felt like a lifetime) the lights came back on. I let go of my ankles, sorted myself out, got dressed and ran for the clean, fresh air of the airport terminal. Well, when I say clean and fresh...everything is relative in these situations.
Awful. The plane did finally arrive and as soon as the seatbelt sign was off, I was up and running. Never has an aeroplane bathroom seemed so luxurious and clean. I'd have sat in there for the whole flight, such was my happiness. Alas, my peace was shortlived.
All hell was breaking loose outside the bathroom door as two female passengers were fighting with a steward who, it seems, had accused them of 'drumming up business' amongst the male business class passengers.....but that's another story altogether.....