In the toiler… or on it?

CAN I talk about lavatories?

Or is it toilets?

It’s forbidden in our house to call them toilets, but it’s a losing battle. The whole world — the Australian world anyway — calls them toilets.

To me it sounds like a prissy euphemism. But I suppose that’s how lavatory started, too. Not to mention privy, water closet, loo, convenience, powder room, and endless others.

The Americans call it the rest room, which might be true if yours is the kind of house where the rest room is full of magazines. Personally, when I go there I am very, very busy. But perhaps I am too graphic.

And that’s another thing, let’s make a compromise: I’ll accept ‘toilet’ if we can make the entire phrase ‘in the toilet’ and not ‘on the toilet’.

I don’t know what kind of image you see when someone’s ‘on the toilet’ but it gives me nightmares.

The workplace has come up with a coy alternative. In the workplace people are ‘away from their desk’. Unless you get the bloke I rang at a bank last week.

“She’s gone to the toilet,” he said. “I’m sure she won’t be long.”

I should be grateful. The mental image would have been much worse if he’d said: “She’s going to be a very, very long time…”

And now that I have finally broached the civilised world’s number-one taboo subject, let me add: who says the seat has to be down? Who made the women of the world the toilet Nazis!

I am always grateful when I find a seat that’s up, because it indicates that whoever was there last did at least lift it up. When the seat’s down it’s a lottery. And having the lid down as well is even worse. I have lifted lavatory (sorry, toilet) seats in the past to discover all the evils of an unimaginable hell sitting in there. It’s a shock that could kill you.

(On one occasion there was a pencil sticking out of it with a little flag saying ‘First Prize’, but that’s another story).

And who says men have to aim down the edges! Haven’t you ever heard of whiplash! The only safe way (for the majority of men) is to go for the middle — and the biggest margin of error. You might be accused of peeing like a horse, but it’s a lot neater.

And another thing: how come lavatories at work look like war zones? And is it really only a boy thing? I wouldn’t know because I’ve never visited the others, but my wife assures me it’s a boy thing. She appears to be right — I’d sooner risk kidney failure and wait till I get home.

Except that my two grandchildren are at home. They have turned the toilet into a communal meeting place; somewhere to discuss almost any subject that comes to mind, including the state of my bowels.

“You’ve been in there a long time, grandad… that was a big splash!”

If I tell you my grandchildren are ‘in the toilet’, that will be exactly what I mean.