I’VE just watched a bloke open the lavatory door with a Biro.
And in case you think I have seedy habits I stress that it was a public lavatory, catering for several dozen men, and he preceded me out, having just washed his hands, as I had done.
He held it delicately between finger and thumb and hooked it in the handle and pulled, dodging through quickly before it swung shut, so no part of the door touched him.
Was he American? I have no idea, but they are the ones, so we are told, who have cornered the market in germ paranoia.
One thing was certain â€“ he wasn’t Australian. I’ve been to parties (in my youth) at which men â€“ boys really â€“ used to try to out-gross one another with disgusting acts. Licking the lavatory door handle was one of them (at the feeble end of the scale!).
And even though I now mock this anonymous, possibly American, Biro-wielding lavaphobic, I found myself pausing as I exited after him, uncertainly studying the door handle.
I mean, there are blokes who don’t wash their hands when they’ve been to the lavatory. I used to be one. When I was 12. I’m sure they’re still out there.
They’ve done surveys, I believe, that show the toilet is the cleanest place in most offices (and the telephone is the dirtiest) but this was not an office. This was a station lavatory.
And believe me I wouldn’t have gone there at all if I hadn’t been desperate. Indeed, it’s the very desperation that makes them dangerous! I think everyone who uses a station lavatory does so because they’re desperate â€“ and consequently a little haphazard with toiler paper (if they use it) and their aim. I don’t know how it is for women. I’ve never used theirs, but I suspect most of them sit, so the risks are more â€¦ contained, if I may put it like that.
I’d never thought about it before: the risk from lavatory door handles. And it’s not just the prospect of leaving immediately after someone with poor hygiene standards. What about the deliberate terrorists â€“ like waiters who think it’s funny to spit in your soup?
Think of the fun â€“ if that’s your idea of fun â€“ you could have with a lavatory door handle!
I used my handkerchief. I was going to use my ballpoint, too, but then I thought: I’m going to write with this shortly, and I’ll be wrapping my fingers around something that has been smeared with lavatory door handle.
It never occurred to me until much later that I’d want to blow my nose on the handkerchief.
I see a niche market for lavatory door openers. A little hooked gadget designed for nothing else but opening lavatory doors. Not something you will later bite the end of, or lick, or hold to your face. We’ll travel with them chained to out belt, like our keys, ready for action in unsavoury lavatories.
The other option is to skulk until someone else opens the door, and then duck out after them. But there’s a name for people who skulk in public lavatories â€¦